WA moves on data linkage reforms

Data linkage

The WA Government has earmarked $8 million over four years from its Digital Capability Fund to drive data linkage reforms and establish a new “central data asset”.

The Government said its funding package, which will be directed to the state’s Office of Digital Government, will “deliver important data linkage reforms and renewed capabilities across the public sector”, citing particular benefits for the research community.

The reforms are hoped to better enable government authorities to tap data collected by all state agencies, helping to improve policymaking, while also offering key benefits for data-hungry researchers.

WA chief scientist Professor Peter Klinken said the reforms would allow for “better interrogation of information across multiple datasets, while implementing industry-leading cyber security measures”.

“The State Government collects data in the course of daily operations, and it’s important that we not only protect that information, but utilise it in an effective manner.”

Ten new roles will also be added to The Office of Digital Government to help build, operate, govern and use a new ‘central data asset’. The funding will also support the provision of “essential new technical equipment and services to ensure data security”.

The reforms come following the recommendations of Professor Klinken, who led a 2016 data linkage review with the research, not-for-profit and public sectors.

The review found that while WA had, up to that point, capitalised well on its efforts to link data, particularly in the health sector, “the growing demand has sparked concern that the current method of delivering data linkage services by the DLB [Data Linkage Branch, part of the WA Department of Health] is not able to cope with a whole-of-Government approach”.

“There is evidence to suggest that the current data linkage service is struggling with demand across the health sector, culminating in increased costs and longer wait times for users,” the report found.

The WA Government said its data linkage reforms and renewed capabilities will “provide the necessary infrastructure to tackle the State’s most complex social, health, environmental and economic issues in a safe and secure way”.

“The funding will enable the State Government to streamline government services, and ensure policy and operational decisions are informed by relevant data.”

“Improved data linkage capabilities will also support health and medical researchers in conducting ethically approved research and evaluation that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of all Western Australians.”

WA’s ICT Minister Stephen Dawson said the Government “is committed to ensuring data we have at our disposal is used to deliver the best possible outcomes for services, policy and strategy for Western Australians”.

“Improved linkage capabilities will enable decisions to be better informed by data and will aid researchers in their efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of all Western Australians.