The Economic Value of Open Data to Australia

This morning I attended the breakfast launch of the Open for Business: How Open Data Can Help Achieve the G20 Growth Target report.

The report was written by Nicholas Gruen (former chair of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce) and his team from Lateral Economics, with support from Victoria University and commissioned by the Omidyar Network (the not-for-profit organisation established by eBay’s founder).

It makes a compelling economic case for open data, estimating aggregate direct and indirect value for Australia was in excess of $15 billion per year. This was based on estimating the economic value of open data just across the G20’s seven priority areas, which I’ve provided below as a table.

G20 priority area
open data value
per annum to Australia
$1.5 billion
$3.4 billion
$1.7 billion
Fiscal and Monetary policy
$3.6 billion
$3.6 billion
$1.6 billion

Relative progress on open government data areas

The report suggested that Australia was still doing very well in the open data space, ranked 3rd amongst G20 nations (7th or 8th overall globally) – but that there was still much room for improvement and learning from other countries.

During the presentation Martin Tisne from the Omidyar Network said that Mexico and India had demonstrated leadership in opening up education data, while South Africa had taken great steps with open budgetary data – making the point that different nations have excelled in different aspects of openness, but few had demonstrated consistent strength across all aspects of open data.

The report included a great deal of detail on different areas in which governments could achieve economic value through open data – and also highlighted that the cost of realising these benefits could be up to a third of the value received, giving a clear signal of the need for government to invest in this area, not simply allow it to thrive or die on its own with no support.

Both Nicholas Gruen and Tony Shepherd, head of the Commission of Audit, highlighted the need for senior Ministerial leadership, and Gruen noted that no Australian Prime Minister had ever been a passionate supporter of open data, to Australia’s detriment where the US and UK had significant political as well as public service leadership for openness.

The presentation also highlighted some of the current pitfalls for entrepreneurs seeking to take advantage of open data while there was no consistent commitment to its release.

Gruen illustrated this point by discussing, a site created at a past GovHack, that mashes up data on public servant movements from He said there was clear added value realised via, which could be a useful reference tool for recruiters and agencies seeking to identify the best talent.

The report states that:’s business model was predicated on its development of successful technical methods to ‘scrape’ the data from pseudo-print PDFs. However frequent changes to the formatting and layout of these files meant continuous re-development of the PDF conversion software to continue to access and add value to the data. The skills required to perform such work (data-mining and text-analysis) are in great demand, and the cost of frequently using such resources exceeded the benefits to Pivotal Analytics.

APSJobs.Info is now defunct – a casualty of government inconsistency.

The Open for Business: How Open Data Can Help Achieve the G20 Growth Target report is highly material in establishing the value of open data to governments and the steps they need to take to realise the economic value that could result from greater release of reusable data.

Hopefully Australian governments will continue to build their commitments to open data and we’ll see some of this value filtering back into our economic.

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