Australian business and government must do more to harness the massive waves of data being created both in public and private spaces – and we need to have more discussion about how more data can be publicly released in order for innovation to thrive.

This was the key message delivered by Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, at the release of a new report created in conjunction between Google and PwC’s Digital Change Services – “Deciding with data: How data-driven innovation is fuelling Australia’s economic growth”.


The Minister said he was a “passionate supporter” of open data, and said the release of real-time data by Transport for New South Wales – around which we ran our own Open Innovation process to create new programs and apps – is an example to follow.

“The opening up of that data is a classical case of how open data is transformational,” he said. “I’m a passionate supporter of that type of open data.”


The Minister referred to over 3,000 open data sets that have been released by the Federal Government, and although noted, as the report itself does, that Australia still lags the rest of the world – there is a growing recognition of the importance of this type of data.

Alan Noble, Head Engineer at Google Australia, said the importance of this type of data cannot be underestimated.

“Not so long ago it used to be that business decisions were made with surprisingly little data, and gut instinct even – and those decisions were often right but not always.”

“Now with increased computing power, it’s never been easier to analyse large amounts of data.”

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The panel touched on some key areas regarding the use of data-driven innovation:

Balancing risk and procurement

Tony Braxton-Smith, the Deputy Director General at Transport for New South Wales, commented on the relationship between those who might want to keep all data private at any cost – against the need for as much open data as possible.

“We have to temper that relationship. Dealing with risk and procurement – governments and the private sector are good at managing risk, but with data-driven innovation, we have to be prepared to take risks.”

Changing the data-driven mindset

Nick Titov, The Project Director and the MindSpot clinic, which uses data and statistics to treat clinical depression and anxiety, said it’s important not to think of a business as being data-driven.

“We don’t think of ourselves as a data-driven organisation – we think of health outcomes, and what we do is use data to inform our clinical procedures.”

“What we’re interested in are the overall outcomes, but also interested in evaluating the service model as a whole.”

The changing face of data and privacy

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The Minister noted during a recent town hall, some young people had expressed a different tact when it comes to privacy – and put forward there should be a discussion among business about how customer data should be treated.

“I think for digital natives, they are growing up in a completely different attitude to privacy now…regarding data, a lot of them say it doesn’t matter because they put their life on Facebook.”

“The internet and the smartphone in particular hasn’t just transformed communication, I think it’s also profoundly changing what it is to be a human and human instincts.”

The Minister put it to the audience of over 100 attendees that perhaps there should be an open dialogue between large businesses about the use of data – echoing remarks from PwC Managing Partner and Head of Enterprises and Strategy,Sammy Kumar who said there needs to be dialogue about what datasets need to be kept private, and what should be open for use in innovation.

“Is there an obligation for large businesses to keep that data open, and if there is justification for that, isn’t it about time we had a discussion?”

Alan Noble concluded the conversation by suggesting to businesses that “if in doubt, let it out” with regard to data sets.

“It’s fantastic to see more innovative uses of data-driven innovation, and I think that should also drive home the message that this is an opportunity for the entire economy – all sectors are going to benefit.”

To read more about the need for data-driven innovation in Australia, download your copy of the report here.



Duncan Stone

Duncan Stone is a director in the Innovation & Disruption and Economics & Policy practices at PwC Australia.

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