Non-Government organisations joined public servants in a packed all day “hui” intended by Finance Minister Bill English to convince the Government agencies to start sharing the huge volumes of data they hold on New Zealanders.
Mr English wants the data shared so that social services can be directed more specifically towards at risk individuals and groups.
But public servants have been reluctant to share information – perhaps worried that the more they empower the non-Governmental groups, the more they are likely to take over social serviced delivery traditionally undertaken by state agencies.
Not just delivery, but analysis. Open up access to the crime and offending data, and you could well have some dedicated NGOs and charities discover patterns and links which will help with policies to lower reoffending.
But it was clear from a keynote speech from Finance Minister, Bill English, that he is finding pushback from the bureaucracy in supplying the data to the NGO’s.
“Access to data shouldn’t be the exclusive reserve of government – but that’s what it largely is because in many cases access is being decided ad hoc,” he said.
“Iwi, NGOs, and Pasifika – many of you here today – have told us getting information out of departments is not easy.
“It’s a negotiation. Agency by agency. Official by official.
“You’ve told us contracts are entered in to as if each negotiation was the first, with the each negotiation’s success dependent on who you are talking to.”
Mr English said that just saying “no” as an approach to data security had meant we have made only limited use of all the data the Government had gone to the trouble of collecting.
“Data has no value if it is not used,” he said.
“So let’s fix the system.
“Let’s reverse the presumption and make data sharing the norm rather than the exception by clarifying the rules.
“Because, actually, it’s your data.
“Specifically, the data we hold belongs to the people, and the whanau that you are working for and with.
“Some of you here today have spoken of data sovereignty.
“You, as citizens, and collectively as Iwi, Pasifika and NGOs acting on behalf of citizens, own the data held by public agencies.
“We agree with you.”
Great to hear Bill English say this and he has been the champion of open data. But as he notes there is bureaucratic resistance.
The key is indeed reversing the presumption, and here’s how it can be done.
Pass a law (statute or regulation) that says all datasets managed by crown entities and agencies must be made publicly available within five years, with two exceptions:
- Any details that could identify individuals should be with-held
- Agencies can apply to Cabinet for exemptions for specific datasets, to opt them out
The idea is to change open data from opt in for agencies to opt out.