Data sharing as an innovation enabler

By Geof Heydon
Monday, 05 August, 2019

Data sharing as an innovation enabler

Whether you are talking about the first responder market or any other sector, digital information is exploding. Increasingly, information is real-time captured and stored and then analysed to produce actionable insights. The Internet of Things story is all about the rapid growth in the number and type of sensors that are being deployed to capture a huge array of information — all of which is stored in digital form. This digital information is enabling a whole range of new insights to be explored. The next generation of people will wonder how we made any decisions at all without the volume of and detail in supporting data.

Today, most data captured is being used to improve decision-making or to help solve an old problem in a new way. Tomorrow, all this data, when shared effectively, will help us understand new problems and deliver new insights that were previously unknown. Being able to link data from many sources and analyse it is emerging as a new and exciting discipline. Imagine being able to analyse data from a wide range of supposedly unrelated sources to be able to identify a complex breakdown in communications and collaboration between first responders, or even to identify a serial firebug.

Without siloed operations sharing data, these sorts of innovations would not be easy or even possible. And yet, one of the most challenging things for an organisation to do is proactively share data. There are a huge number of reasons (read ‘excuses’) for not sharing. These include such things as: not trusting the recipient to keep the data safe; not being willing to share your data because you are embarrassed by the errors you know are there; or even that you’re not sure that you own the data and therefore have the rights to share it. These are three of many reasons I’ve heard. There are literally dozens of reasons to not share data. But without sharing there won’t be opportunities to innovate.

Would it surprise you to know that there are today no standards for sharing data? Furthermore, would it surprise you to know that Australia is driving the technical input into the international standards bodies (IEC and ISO via the Joint Technical Committee, JTC1) on trust preserving data sharing, which is one of the most important areas of work for the Internet of Things. This work is progressing as a taskforce collaboration between the NSW Government’s Data Analytics Centre and the Australian Computer Society with input from the IoT Alliance and several other agencies and private sector players. This work, via Standards Australia, is driving the standardisation process.

It’s based on a trust framework for data sharing called the ‘Five Safes’ — originally developed by the UK government and now adopted by several agencies globally. Locally we have been using this framework to build a trust preserving data sharing approach that enables organisations to share data that contains sensitive personal information with partners, while dramatically decreasing the chance of personal re-identification — which is indeed one of the main reasons why little or no sensitive data is shared today.

Geof Heydon is principal consultant and co-founder of the IoT Alliance, Australia, chair of the Australian Computer Society’s Data Sharing Technical Committee and Associate in the Astrolabe Group. For more information on this topic, refer to

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