On the 7th of December, the Australian government released a detailed policy statement outlining their commitment to harnessing the value of data. In the introduction, they claimed that ’Australia’s capacity to remain competitive in the digital economy is contingent upon its ability to harness the value of data.’ This is undeniably true. Many governments around the world have already put in place programs designed to make the most of the wealth of data now available to them. These have helped drive efficiency across public work programs, and enabled businesses to innovate in every industry.
The policy document set out a number of commitments designed to enable the sharing of as much data as possible for analysis. These include making non-sensitive data open by default, in order to help boost innovation and productivity across all sectors of the Australian economy. It also states that they will ensure, wherever possible, data will be free, easy to use, high quality and reliable, as well as being made available to the public, industry and academia.
Such commitment is excellent, but many Australian firms still demonstrate an inability to analyze data effectively. A report from the Australian Bureau Of Statistics (ABS) entitled ‘A Statistical Framework for Analyzing Big Data’ found that data programs in companies and governments are conducted backwards. This means, fundamentally, that as much data as possible is collected before it is known what will be done with it, whereas it should be the other way round.
Much of this ties into an apparent lack of understanding around actually leveraging the insights that are being garnered by their data scientists. There is certainly no lack of willingness, with 81% telling a survey by the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia (IAPA) that they believed analytics plays a part in their organization’s ability to innovate and differentiate. Australian companies are also investing heavily in the field, paying analytics professionals upwards of $130,000, particularly those with big data and cloud analytics skills - 4% higher than in 2014.
However, the IAPA survey also found that fewer firms are cycling the insights back into the business. Of those that responded to the survey, 37% admitted that their companies are not getting the full benefits of their data analytics skills. This seems to be the result of a failure at executive level. Nearly half of the analysts (47%) noted that lack of understanding of data and analytics at the executive level is a key barrier to them applying their skills.
This presents a problem for the Australian government. Their quest to make it easy for everyone to access their data is admirable, but it is not necessarily helping provide the skills needed in industry to analyze it. Executives need to be educated as to how important insights drawn from data are. Such schemes, by the sheer fact of their existence, help demonstrate this, but there is more to be done. Analysts also need to play their part. It’s all very well complaining to research companies that they don’t feel they’re being listened to, but they really need to demonstrate their value.