Home' Position : Position Feb Mar 2015 Contents The main source of raw location
data in Australia is state and territory
governments. These governments
have a major responsibility for land
administration and the legislation
and policy associated with this role
drive much of the data capture and
management requirements. Consequently,
they each have their own standards
and formats for raw data, which almost
invariably require further work to achieve
uniformity and consistency at the national
level. The national datasets developed in
this way and available to the market today
are collected, standardised, enriched and
delivered at a considerable cost.
So here is an interesting policy
question: if data requires further
processing before it can be used to gain
benefits in the way described by the
minister, who should do that work?
Clearly, not everyone who uses the
data should do this work. It would make
much greater economic sense to do
this work once. The effort saved in not
needing to perform this activity then
creates opportunity to invest that saving
There is likely to be one proviso: the
investor wants confidence, or at least as
much as possible. If the supply of the
content is not consistent in terms of avail-
ability, update and quality, they may well
choose to perform that work themselves.
So, to some extent, the delivery of
commercial value and economic benefit
will rely on the confidence instilled in the
consumer by the provider. Or put another
way, data with a higher quality and
certainty is more likely to instil greater
confidence in a consumer. The consumer
is then comfortable to rely on the supply
from the provider and utilise the savings
from not doing the work themselves in
Invest not reinvent
It shouldn’t come as a surprise then
that the governments have already
considered this powerful economic
argument and established a mechanism
to refine location data (and, in
particular, dynamic location data) to the
point where the extraction of benefits
occurs with considerably less effort for
This mechanism is PSMA Australia.
An organisation that has been quietly
operating for more than 20 years, PSMA
has established and nurtured relationships
with data custodians across all
jurisdictions to be able to collect, collate
and provide transformed data, negating
the need for the market to undertake a
large amount of pre-processing that would
be otherwise required.
While the broader economy may not
have heard of PSMA, it has certainly
benefited from the dramatic reduction
in effort required to extract value from
the government location data. PSMA’s
work reduces the complexity of the
data supplied to us, thereby increasing
the number of organisations that can
make use of it. This benefit is key to
achieving the accessibility being sought
PSMA’s role in transforming raw custo-
dian data into national assets requires sig-
nificant investment in people, infrastruc-
ture, technology and innovation. However,
the costs of doing this are shared broadly
across all beneficiaries and the resulting
benefits far outweigh the costs, both at the
individual business level and the whole-
of-economy level. Data quality is higher,
confidence in continuity is strong, and
considerable commercial value results.
‘Open data’ is a
means, not an end
When we talk about ‘open data’, we are
not talking about data that is free per se.
In fact, we too easily get bogged down
in debates around fees, when we should
really be focused on the outcomes and
the best way to sustainably deliver them.
This is especially the case with economic
activity through data-driven innovation.
I call on our industry peers to drive
the open data debate to consider what
things should be included in the policy,
how they should work together to achieve
significant economic benefit, and how to
ensure that the conditions that deliver this
economic benefit are sustainable.
Before we can talk sensibly about ‘who
pays’, we need to work out what needs to
be done to achieve these highly desirable
economic benefits for Australia.
The elephant in the
room: the perfect
open data partner
But the conversation inevitably leads
to the question ‘who pays?’ Or, more
commonly, should PSMA be charging a
fee for our asset of data?
Here’s the thing: geospatial data
integration is an expensive business.
The role of PSMA Australia in delivering
national datasets, costs. And as PSMA
Australia was established (quite
purposefully) as a non-government
funded, self-sustaining, full-cost recovery
entity, those costs must be recovered from
the market via commercial activity.
Under PSMA’s existing commercial
model, it is the user – or the beneficiary
of the data – that pays but that cost is far
less than the alternative of performing all
the work yourself.
What’s more, in many cases PSMA is
the first step in the value adding chain
that begins with open government data.
Not only are the activities of PSMA
Australia entirely compatible with open
data initiatives, they are essential in
providing the market with consistency,
quality, and the confidence required to
derive the maximum commercial and
economic benefits from that open data.
Let the magic be in
action not just words
As people who live and breathe location
data, PSMA fully understands the
government’s zeal to deliver on its open
But we should not allow instant
gratification to come at the price of long-
Simply releasing location data
into the open without the investment
and mechanics to ensure that data is
useable and sustainable will not deliver
the highest savings, efficiencies and
innovation the government seeks.
As the mechanism established by the
Australian governments to deliver a na-
tionally consistent, geospatial information
infrastructure for use within the economy,
and as the means to surmount some
intrinsic structural and demographic chal-
lenges, PSMA sees it as part of our mis-
sion to drive this open data debate beyond
rhetoric and towards outcomes.
Let’s talk about what data is needed to
build the digital infrastructure that will
underpin our digital economy. Let’s work
together to ensure a sustainable supply of
that data. Let’s invest in the mechanics,
the education and the support the market
needs to access and use this data.
I say ‘let’s’ because this is not a job
for a single stakeholder. Government,
industry, end users and everyone else in
between all have a role to play.
So let’s start working towards those
Dan Paull is the CEO of PSMA
“Here’s the thing: geospatial data integration is an
expensive business. The role of PSMA Australia in
delivering national datasets, costs.”
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