Share data across government

 

Before you begin

This guide is a quick introduction to Victoria’s open data policy for government.

If you’re already familiar with the benefits and policy of open data, and know what your organisation’s information management policies and processes are, you can skip to the DataVic Access Policy: Dataset Publishing Manual for the instructions on how to complete and submit data for publication.

Overview of Victoria’s open data policy

The Victorian Government holds, creates and collects a vast amount of data, ranging from demographic and economic to geospatial data and transport-related data. Storage formats include hardcopy, electronic (digital), audio, video, image, graphical, cartographic, physical sample, textual, geospatial or numerical form.

The Victorian Government encourages making Victorian government data available for the public good, and the DataVic Access Policy has been developed to support this. The purpose of the DataVic Access Policy is:

  • to enable public access to government data to support research and education, promote innovation, support improvements in productivity and stimulate growth in the Victorian economy
  • to enhance sharing of, and access to, information-rich resources to support evidence-based decision making in the public sector

As a result, Victorian government datasets will be:

  • available to the public
  • easy to find
  • easy to use

Not all government data is suitable for release. Access to data may need to be restricted for reasons of privacy, public safety, security and law enforcement, public health, pre-existing contractual arrangements.

Practical resources support the policy

The DataVic Access Policy Guidelines offer a comprehensive set of tools, and direct how Victorian Government data should be released, licensed and managed so community and businesses can use it and reuse it.

The Department of Treasury and Finance also publishes a set of fact sheets and manuals, including policy on intellectual policy.

Where Victoria’s open data is published

DataVic (data.vic.gov.au) is Victoria’s open data directory, and publishes a wide range of open data sets.

What does the Victorian Government recommend?

All Victorian Government online services should aim to make data freely available to the public with minimal restrictions.

What standards must be met?

Data must be publicly available

You must make all datasets available to the public.

Review the DataVic Access Policy document for the Victorian Government’s rules and guidance.

Data must be published on the DataVic website

You must create a record for any data you release on data.vic.gov.au.

Are there exceptions?

Yes. Your agency can restrict access for these reasons:

  • privacy
  • public safety
  • public health
  • security and law enforcement
  • other legal compliance

Manage public records

The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) (under Section 12 of the Public Records Act 1973) sets the standards for managing the public records your department or agency create. Always check with your department’s or agency’s records or information management specialist first for the approach to compliance.

Refer to How to manage online records for more information or the PROV website.

Privacy

Comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, and only collect information you’re legally entitled to collect. You’ll need to craft and publish a privacy ‘collection notice’ (refer to the How-to guide, How to manage privacy, or the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner website).

If your digital presence collects personal information, then the physical location of the servers where it’s stored must have the same level of legal protection for private data as we offer citizens in Victoria.

Security

Comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. Refer to the How-to guide, How to manage security, and the standards on the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner website.

Information management (IM)

Refer to the guidance notes and policy documents on the IM section of Enterprise Solutions website. Includes guidance for managing records for Office 365 implementations, and a brief IM checklist for systems procurement and implementation. The IM Framework gives an overview of IM for WoVG.

 

Getting it approved

Open data-sets must be approved

Locate the person who manages the Information Management policies and processes for your department or agency.

For a complete and authoritative treatment of the topic, we strongly recommend you review the Department of Treasury and Finance’s DataVic Access Policy Guidelines for the Victorian public sector as well as their fact sheets and manuals.

To avoid repeating what’s already well explained elsewhere, the following section is a condensation of the topic, and written for those unfamiliar with open data.

How the DataVic website works: Victoria’s open-data discovery tool

The DataVic website is a ‘discovery tool’. Its essential purpose is to help people easily find Victoria’s range of open datasets – on one website.

DataVic catalogues, describes, and makes available for download every open dataset available for release.

Each individual page of information on the DataVic website is a ‘Data Record’. A Data Record exists as a webpage on DataVic. For example, VicMap Hydro - Waterfalls.

The Data Record has:

  • a title
  • a detailed description of your dataset
  • the download formats available
  • the data owner (your agency)
  • the open licence

Metadata

The information about your Data Record on the web page is ‘metadata’ (that is, information about information).

This metadata describes the dataset you’re making available. It gives the person who might want to download it context about its collection and release, and if it will suit their purposes.

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Make sure your data complies

Your agency needs to work through three stages to make it available, and at the same time comply with the DataVic Access Policy.

The three compliance stages are:

Stage 1: Identify the data your agency will make publicly available

Stage 2: Follow your internal approval processes

Stage 3: Complete the DataVic metadata template and ask Data.Vic admin to publish your dataset

You must complete the metadata template for your dataset to be published. It can't be published without first completing the template.

The metadata template's field names described in detail

Even though the publishing manual describes every field in the metadata template, we’ve listed them here again as some are described in more detail than elsewhere online.

Field name

Description (content required).

Agency (if applicable)

Insert the name of the organisation with the overall accountability for the dataset.

Department

Add the name of the top-level department accountable for the dataset.

Data Administrator

Include the name of the officer managing your agency’s presence on Data.Vic. This officer will be the first contact for any feedback received through Data.Vic. This information is kept within the CMS and is not made public.

Data Administrator Contact Details email

Fill in the relevant email address. This information helps with all the feedback mechanisms on the site. This information is not made public.

Data Administrator Contact Details phone

Add in the relevant phone number. This is not made public.

Approver Contact

This is the field for the name of the Officer authorised within the organisation to make the decision to release data to the public. This is not made public.

Approver Contact Details email

Complete the relevant email address. This information will not be made public.

Approver Contact Details phone

Add the relevant phone number. This will not be made public.

Department or Agency URL

Add in the full URL of either the Department’s corporate website or a program-specific website. Full URL means you need to include http:// or https://.

Data Title

As the name implies, this is the Data Title field. Ensure that the data title is clear and descriptive. It needs to be immediately understood by the users of the site.

Extract

The extract field is the text that appears in the results section of a web search engine. This field has a 255 character limit. Just imagine what sort of information you would expect to see in a Google search results page when composing this piece of text.

Data Description

This field populates the most prominent and important section of the data record. It’s the section that contains the full detailed description of the dataset available for download. The more detailed the text, the better an understanding of the data the user gains. It allows the user to know what they are getting before making the decision to download the dataset. There is no text limit in this field so the more detailed description the better.

Release Date

This covers the date the dataset was first released for public use. If there's any confusion over the official release date, use the first day of release on Data.Vic

Format

This field describes the file formats being made available to the public for download. These can include formats like XML, Excel, CSV. Please fill in this section with all the relevant formats to be released.

Data Source URL

This particular field requires the inclusion of the direct link to the Dataset itself. Remember, Data.Vic doesn’t host the actual dataset file. What is required for this field is the URL of the dataset that is stored within the organisations own web server environment. Include the full URL (http:// or https://)

Program URL

This field can be used if the dataset is related to a specific program with its own web presence. If not, just add the URL of the organisations corporate website. Don’t forget to add the full URL.

Data Frequency

Add in details of the frequency that the data source is updated, that is,  weekly, monthly, annually etc.

Temporal Range

Temporal range refers to the date period the dataset covers. For example, an organisations annual report for the 15/16 financial will have a temporal range of 1/7/2015 to 30/6/2016.

GeoData (if applicable)

The next two fields cover datasets that have a geospatial aspect. This field covers the granular extent of the dataset or the extent of drill down level — that is, to Local Government Area (LGA) level, collection district, street level etc. Leave blank if the dataset does not have a geospatial context.

Data Type/Category

The information sourced from this field is very useful for users of Data.Vic. It allows users to search by categories such as health, transport, spatial etc. There is a full list of category options listed in the metadata template. Choose just one category type.

Licensing

This field allows the organisation to select the relevant licence to be added to the data record. Please note that the policy states that only non-restrictive licences can be used. The default position of the Victorian Government is to use the suite of Creative Commons Licences (CC). The template includes a list of all the CC Licence types with links to web pages for further detail.

Site tags

It is important to add as many single word descriptions as possible to this field. Site tags drive better search functionality and also support the ability to link data.

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Related How-to guides

How to manage security

How to manage privacy

How to manage online records

Other good reads and tools

The DataVic Access Policy Dataset Publishing Manual.

On the IM section of Enterprise Solutions website, the Information Management Framework for the Victorian Public Service  has a range of guidance and policy documents.

The Digital Transformation Agency's guide to sharing federal government agency data sets.

Join the conversation on digital

Get advice and share your insights about this topic with other digital practitioners on the WoVG Digital Group on Yammer (VPS access only).

Can’t access Yammer? Contact us by email: contact@dpc.vic.gov.au (We may post your comment on Yammer for general discussion. Please tell us if that’s not OK).