(Australian Associated Press)
A huge amount of information about Australians being held by the federal government should not be kept locked away, but instead used for research projects that can help save lives, a minister says.
Data analysis that has linked heart failures and birth defects to particular medications show how information collected by government agencies can be used to deliver better policies and services, according to Michael Keenan.
The digital transformation minister on Wednesday detailed a plan to make all government services available online by 2025.
“The Australian government holds vast amounts of information collected from individuals and businesses” Mr Keenan told the National Press Club in Canberra.
“This is a strategic national resource, but today much of it sits on its own, in silos. We want to harness this untapped resource as a force for good.”
Mr Keenan stressed security and privacy are at the heart of the government’s plan to make all of its services available on the web within seven years.
Australians would be able to apply for welfare and register births and deaths online under the strategy, rather than having to wait in line at government offices or getting stuck in phone queues.
A new digital identity system is also being piloted, through which people would only need to use a single ID to access all online services.
Mr Keenan said the rollout of the My Health Record system has been a reminder that some people have real concerns about security and privacy that need to be addressed.
But Australia has a great record in keeping data safe and will continue to do so, as it also seeks to build trust among the community.
“It’s always up to government to make the arguments, and to make the case, for why we believe that people should have this, and clearly, we’ve learnt lessons from the roll out of My Health Record that there’s still work to be done,” the minister said
“We need to be on the front foot. We need to be accepting that people have these fears and addressing these fears with what we’re doing.
“But security and privacy, if we are doing anything in the online space, these are the things that we think about first.”
New penalties and stronger privacy measures for My Health Record system passed the Senate last week, after the government agreed to extend an opt-out deadline.