7 July 2020
Salsa Digital

The Foundational Four

On 29 June the Office of the National Data Commissioner (ONDC) released its publication The Foundational Four, which provides advice on how the Australia Public Service can improve its data use.

The Foundational Four are:

  1. Leadership

  2. Strategy

  3. Governance

  4. Asset discovery

The Foundational Four have been created as a baseline for agencies starting their open data journey. For agencies further along in the process, the Foundational Four can serve as a checkpoint to help identify any gaps or areas for improvement.

1. Leadership

For leadership, ONDC stresses the need for a senior leader who’s “responsible and accountable for data across the agency”. This is also in line with recommendations we submitted in response to Victoria’s call for input on its new data policy (see recommendation four in our blog). Our recommendation was: “All agencies should have a dedicated open data ‘champion’ to promote and drive open data adoption within the agency.” In fact, the exec summary of The Foundational Four specifically calls for “data champions”.

The Foundational Four report outlines the responsibilities of the senior leader and suggests that in larger agencies the senior leader should be a separate, dedicated role.

2. Strategy

Strategy is summarised in the report as: “An agency has a clear vision and plan for using data to achieve objectives”. An agency’s data strategy should cover the end-to-end process, from the collection of data to maximising its use. The ONDC report includes lots of useful information on what a strategy document should include — key headings/sections that need to be addressed and what information should be included in each section. These areas are:

  • The vision

  • How the strategy aligns with government data policy

  • How the strategy aligns with internal policies/strategies

  • Strategic objectives

  • Focus areas and programs of work

  • Measurable outcomes

  • Roadmap

It also provides useful information and examples of each of the areas.

The information in this section of the report would be very useful as a template for an agency’s data strategy.

3. Governance

Data governance is about setting up and enforcing policies and procedures that cover how data will be managed.The report calls out several areas, such as:

  • Executive buy-in

  • Staff buy-in

  • Documented policies and procedures

  • A data governance framework

  • Progressive implementation

In the executive summary, governance is called out as an essential area — if strong data governance isn’t in place, the remaining three elements will have little impact.

4. Asset discovery

Asset discovery involves identifying and recording all data assets. The report looks at the importance of identifying data assets and suggests agencies start with a data inventory. The data inventory should include metadata based on recognised standards, such as:

For more information on metadata standards you may want to read our blog Metadata standards for open data.

Once an inventory is finalised, it can be turned into a data catalogue. There are several tools that can be used for open data cataloging. One we've supported the adoption of throughout government is CKAN —an open source data management portal. More about CKAN

About the Office of the National Data Commissioner

In 2017 the Productivity Commission released its report Data Availability and Use. One of the recommendations in that report was to establish a National Data Commissioner to oversee the public data system. The Interim National Data Commissioner was appointed in August 2018 as part of the establishment of the ONDC. The Commissioner oversees how data is used within Australia, focusing on maximising the power of open data while maintaining Australians’ trust around data use.

Salsa Digital’s take

The Foundational Four provides a clear starting point and some simple, useful steps agencies can follow to help them with their open data journey. The report represents another step in Australia’s commitment to open data, and how it can benefit government and citizens. Open data is an area we’re passionate about and something we blog about often. In 2019 we also established our Open Data Insights series, which highlights government open datasets.

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