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Andrew Smailes


Topic: The Importance of Data Design for Future Government Services.

Much has been written about the need to make it easy for people to deal with the government and transform government services to be simple, clear and fast. There are high expectations that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will enable the transformation of services to free up public servants and serve citizens more effectively. AI is built on fit-for-purpose data.

Currently, within government, much attention is given the use of data for user experience, data analysis, forecasting or developing application programming interfaces. There are significant programs underway or being planned to enable access and sharing of data across agencies. Because of Digital Continuity, 2020 agencies are putting in place data governance and data management processes and procedures.

All this activity is to be commendable. However, the issue I would like to raise is that there is limited discussion on the design, definition, and quality of the data managed. Every government organisation is data rich, but all this data is not the result of a grand design, rather it represents a collection of disparate data sources and projects. Though this data may be of interest from a research or evaluation point of view, it has little to offer in digital transformation.

The definition of design as “A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is made”. The government must start seeing the need to develop information blueprints and clearly define consistent definitions for terms such as “citizen” before investing in technology and systems to collect and store data. The greater the upfront focus on the design and definition of data the greater the opportunity there will be to use AI and provide meaningful, intelligent services effectively.

I believe that the review should consider recommending that attention is given to building skills associated with the design of fit-for-purpose. Currently, data design is seen as ICT issue, when in fact effective information comes from communication between executives, business areas, data managers and IT developers.

I am the president of DAMA Australia, Australia’s peak professional body for information management practitioners. DAMA (Data Management Association) is a vendor-independent, not for profit professional association of information management practitioners. Its primary objective is to "promote the understanding and practice of managing information as key business assets".

DAMA has been in operation in Australia since the mid-1980s with active DAMA branches in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Parramatta. Currently, 20+ agencies are corporate members of DAMA Canberra Chapter. DAMA Australia is part of the worldwide network of more than 60 DAMA chapters which form DAMA International.