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Comms Annual Report 2014–15

Enhancing digital productivity: significant activities and achievements

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Programme 1.1: Digital Technologies and Communications Services

Promote an innovative and competitive communications sector, through policy development, advice and programme delivery, so all Australians can realise the full potential of digital technologies and communications services.

Case study

Open data could drive innovation in digital economy

National Map logo

A key achievement for the Department of Communications this year was the launch of the highly acclaimed open data project, the NationalMap. A joint initiative with NICTA and Geoscience Australia, the NationalMap is the first open source, open data and whole-of-government platform in Australia.

By allowing members of the public to access and re-use government information, it is expected the NationalMap will drive innovation and unlock economic and social benefits.

Designed as a visual tool for open government data, NationalMap provides access to authoritative and other spatial data held by all levels of government in Australia–from local to Commonwealth.

By overlaying different types of data, the platform helps with evidence-based decision-making. For example, the fusion of population, electrical grid, energy supply and environmental information has enabled evidence-based decision making when planning new energy projects in Northern Australia.

The NationalMap has over 2,000 available datasets that cover topics such as society, economy, land use, environment and communications. It pulls data from a wide range of sources such as, the central location for government data.

This initiative was successful thanks to innovative cross-agency collaboration. The open-source software was developed by NICTA, while our Department and Geoscience Australia designed functionality and user requirements.

The fact this project was open source, used open standards and open data has already had spinoff benefits. Not only has it facilitated the more efficient use of valuable open government data, it has led to several new businesses starting up in the private sector, and seen new applications created.

The NationalMap demonstrates successful use of agile project management practices of flexibility, risk management and iterative development. Findings from user experience testing throughout the development of the NationalMap were adapted into useability and conceptual improvements.

The challenge remains to inform stakeholders of the benefits of visualising open government data to innovate and achieve economic and social outcomes. However, the growing use of the NationalMap is encouraging the publication of high-value public datasets with an emphasis on quality over quantity.

The NationalMap is just one example of the Australian Government’s commitment to its open data policy.

screenshot of the National Map

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