Digital Transformation in Government Insight #108:
Office of the National Data Commissioner’s Foundational Four for data
The Foundational Four of leadership, strategy, governance and asset discovery will help ensure all Australian government agencies are set up to make the most of open data.
The Foundational Four
The Foundational Four are:
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.
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.
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:
How the strategy aligns with government data policy
How the strategy aligns with internal policies/strategies
Focus areas and programs of work
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.
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:
Documented policies and procedures
A data governance framework
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.