Open data workshop at the Queensland Startup Precinct in TC Beirne Building

In the 2017-18 Queensland Budget handed down last Tuesday, among a large number of measures is the “Open data policy and action plan”, to which the Government is allocating just over $1 million over two financial years (see Budget Paper 4 Budget Measures on p. 18). Arguably this is money well spent, as there are huge opportunities for businesses and community groups to make use of the vast amount of data that is hidden away in government agencies.

Significant progress has already been made on open data in Queensland, including by the current and previous State governments, and you may be aware that various data sets are already available on data.qld.gov.au, and that one practical application of open data has been the Brisbane Bus and Train app. But there is widespread recognition that more needs to be done, and hence the Open Data Institute, a non-profit company, held a workshop on Data to drive innovation and advance business on Friday 16 June at the Precinct in the TC Beirne Building in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. The workshop took place in the Precinct’s so-called Stair Stadium, where you can sit on the steps of over-sized wooden stairs, similar to those in the State Library.

ODI_workshopData custodians and workshop facilitators debriefing and developing actions plans after the 16 June morning workshop with industry representatives (Image from the Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur’s tweet).

The workshop was facilitated by local PR business Articulous Communications and brought together data custodians from various Queensland Government agencies and local councils and industry representatives from a range of sectors. Well supplied with the customary sharpies, sticky notes and pieces of butchers paper, we came up with lists of opportunities for greater use of government data by businesses throughout the whole economy and within specific sectors such as agriculture, construction and tourism. There were many interesting and practical suggestions made, including the suggestion by a plumber in the Wide-Bay-Burnett region that his local council create an online portal, so he can automatically access maps showing the locations of water and sewerage pipes on properties where he has upcoming jobs.

I grabbed the microphone a few times during the workshop and made the following points:

  • The more frequent publication of Queensland Government royalties and taxation data (e.g. monthly or quarterly) by the Queensland Treasury would provide opportunities for us to better “nowcast” the economy;
  • It would be desirable to drill down further than is currently allowed (by Budget papers and annual reports) into the Government’s expenses to discover exactly what it is spending on particular programs, including by expense item (e.g. travel and accommodation, consultancies, etc) and by region, for example;
  • A common view among participants was that it is unclear exactly what data the Government holds, and hence we need to improve our meta-data (i.e. information about data) and to make that meta-data widely accessible; and
  • Follow through on the opportunities and actions identified at the workshop is absolutely critical as, sadly, all too often these community or industry engagement forums end up going nowhere (e.g. the Rudd Government’s 2020 Summit).

In case you are wondering, the Queensland Startup Precinct is a flexible contemporary space designed for start-up businesses. It is designed to foster collaboration among startups, and hence has lots of common areas and a large kitchen with an industrial-scale Nespresso machine. The Precinct also houses the office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur, the highly successful Mark Sowerby, the founder of Blue Sky Alternative Investments. The Precinct was established by the Queensland Government last year and you can read more about it at:

Queensland Startup Precinct

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