29 September 2020
Salsa Digital

Australian Public Service (APS) professional streams

At the recent launch of the APS’s Data Professional Stream, APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott spoke about the rationale behind the professional streams and the goal of creating a more integrated public service.

The announcement of Dr David Gruen as Head of Data completes the appointment of three new heads of professions:

  • Head of Human Resources, Jacqui Curtis

  • Head of Digital, Randall Brugeaud

  • Head of Data, Dr David Gruen

The importance of data

During the launch, Dr Gruen talked about the importance of data, giving a couple of recent examples of data use in response to COVID-19. Specifically, he spoke about two Australian Bureau of Statistics activities. The first one was the introduction of new, quick surveys — the ABS was running small surveys, analysing and publishing the results in days so the government could keep up to date and respond quickly to the pandemic. The second example Gruen gave was working with the Australian Taxation Office to get a better and more immediate sense of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

More generally, Gruen highlighted the goal behind the data stream: “...the idea is to create a cadre of people who have higher level data skills, both people who are actually going to be producing data, but also ... people [who] are going to be using data...” Gruen said.

The four themes

Currently, the data stream strategy focuses on four themes:

  1. Establishing the stream — Creating a senior reference group, setting up a professional network and initiating collaboration. The aim is to “ and share professional data standards and best practice,” Gruen said.

  2. Getting it right from the start — Focusing on the people from the start, including attracting talent into the APS, increasing diversity within data roles and streamlining recruitment.

  3. Developing sophisticated and specialist data capabilities — Extending the second theme by enhancing capabilities and promoting learning opportunities.

  4. Embedding a professional data workforce — Further extending the focus on people by “embedding a professional workforce, including building career pathways, professional communities and professional standards,” Gruen said.

Gruen also talked about mobility of skilled professionals, using two-way secondments as a way to share knowledge across the APS.

Salsa Digital’s take

There’s a significant focus on data in governments around the world. It’s an issue Salsa is deeply involved in through both advocacy and our role working with governments to open up their datasets. Having both data and digital technologies represented in the APS’s new professional streams highlights the importance of these two areas to a successful and modern APS.

The four streams also tie in well with our views around Victoria’s recent draft open data policy. The APS focus on people relates to two of our recommendations, specifically:

  • Recommendation 4: All agencies should have a dedicated open data ‘champion’ to promote and drive open data adoption within the agency

  • Recommendation 5: Create a central body that supports and provides resources for open data ‘champions’ and open data adopters

The APS Data Professional Stream will help build a strong data focus at the national level.

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