Australian business is looking for more open data

Australia’s open data is a national resource. It underpins digital services and creates economic and social benefit.


Australian business is looking for more open data

As managers of the Commonwealth’s open data products, data.gov.au and nationalmap.gov.au, the Observatory explored how the community can create greater value from open data.

This research showed that there is a strong demand by business for open data.

What is open data?

If you have ever used an app to read a bus timetable or find the nearest public toilet, chances are you used open data.

Open data is data that is freely available, easily discoverable, accessible and published in ways and under licenses that allows reuse.

Government organisations collect and create vast amounts of data. Often, this data has economic and social value in ways unforeseen by those managing it. The Productivity Commission found that increasing the release of open data can fuel business activity and increase public sector efficiency.

It is challenging to accurately estimate open data’s value. The Productivity Commission estimates the value of public sector data value between from $625 million to $64 billion. A 2015 EU analysis of open data’s value, projected that it would have a €75.7 billion direct market value, and a total market value between €265 billion and €286 billion in 2020.

How the community uses open data

Rather than trying to estimate Australian open data’s value to business, we asked what types of data are Australian businesses requesting?

The Observatory receive requests from members of the community for new open data. The team analysed 750 of these requests and categorised them by the type of data being requested and the requester’s organization.

A graph showing how the community uses open data, with business as the highest with 31% and housing as the lowest with 2%.
Caption: A graph showing percentages of the community who use open data

We found that the most common requests were for business-related data, and the most common requesters are people in private business. We also interviewed open data users to find out how they use it. These interviews reinforced our findings from the data requests: Australian businesses, governments, and researchers are using open data for their work and study.

The research uncovered a variety of uses Australians have for open data:

  • small businesses connecting Australians to the internet wanting the latest information on local broadband speeds and infrastructure
  • mining companies using our infrastructure for desktop research, identifying potential new sites while understanding what regulations apply to that area
  • companies using blackspot information to identify potential customers for their equipment
  • a recreational paraglider who uses open data to identify potential landing sites while avoiding sensitive locations, such as areas under native title.

Requests for data (as categories) by requester type

Table 1: None
Request category Percentage
Business 21.3%
Spatial 10.6%
Health 9.2%
Environmental 8.2%
Social services 7.7%
Utilities/Telecom 7.3%
Housing/Development 6.3%
Transport 6.3%
Demographics 4.8%
Government 4.8%
International 3.4%
Agriculture 2.4%
Table 2: Business
Request category Percentage
Business 22.1%
Spatial 12.5%
Environment 7.7%
International 7.7%
Utilities/Telecom 7.7%
Housing/Development 6.7%
Demographics 5.8%
Health 4.8%
Transport 4.8%
Government 3.9%
Other 3.9%
Agriculture 2.9%
Table 3: Government
Request category Percentage
Spatial 23.6%
Demographics 10.9%
Environment 10.9%
Health 9.1%
Social Sciences 7.3%
Utilities/Telecom 7.3%
Agriculture 5.5%
Business 5.5%
International 5.5%
Transport 5.5%
Government 3.6%
Other 3.6%
Table 4: Academia
Request category Percentage
Environment 19.3%
Health 14.5%
Spatial 9.7%
Business 8.1%
Demographics 8.1%
Social sciences 8.1%
Education 6.5%
Other 4.8%
Social issues 4.8%
Utilities/Telecom 4.8%
Holiday 3.2%
International 3.2%

How the community uses open data

To find out who can respond to these requests, we analysed who contributes open data, how much they contribute and whether they publish manually or automatically.

The 3 largest individual open data contributors are the CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, and the Australia Antarctica Division. At an aggregate level, state and territory governments are the biggest open data publishers. Local councils are also significant contributors, and an interesting trait is that they form the largest group of manual publishers on data.gov.au.

A common attribute among many successful data publishers is that they have a scientific focus. Following our analysis of open data publishers, we interviewed 15 major publishers from the Commonwealth, State and Territories and Local government. We found that scientific organisations tend to have formal data publishing standards and a culture that encourages its staff to build on existing knowledge.

Prolific open data publishers also took advantage of automated systems. Data.gov.au’s catalog is powered by Data61’s Making Australian Government Data Available system (MAGDA). MAGDA automatically searches for open data that is published by on the internet. It then creates a page for the external data on data.gov.au, federating open data from different places so it can be found on the one website. Around 94% of the open data on data.gov.au is ingested by MAGDA.

Find out more

Australia’s current open data environment is the result of the effort and passion of hundreds of people across the country. While a great amount of open data is available, there is unmet need and untapped potential.

Find out how you can publish your organisation’s open data. Contact us at data@digital.gov.au.

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