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3.3 - Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Environmental information

Overall status:

This commitment builds on progress made by the Government in recent years to work with stakeholders to make significant environmental datasets discoverable, accessible and available to all Australians to help make better decisions about environmental management.

The Department of the Environment and Energy is committed to improving the accessibility and discoverability of the data that underpins key responsibilities, such as the State of the Environment (SoE) reporting and research into the impacts of coal and coal seam gas developments on ground water.

This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information and technology and innovation by enabling information and data reuse for economic and social benefits and increasing the accessibility, usability and discoverability of public data.

Current status

SoE Digital

The State of the Environment 2016 interactive digital platform, SoE Digital, was launched on 7 March 2017. By January 2018, SoE Digital had attracted over 80 000 unique visitors, with over 16 000 dataset views and 2000 dataset downloads. The SoE 2016 content was developed by a team of independent experts supported by the Department of the Environment and Energy. This content was reviewed by stakeholders, fact checked and peer reviewed by subject-matter experts.

In parallel with the content development, the SoE Digital team worked on the information design and architecture. Strong partnerships with public and private enterprise helped resolve challenges in connecting govCMS as the platform and data.gov.au as the data host. User testing with researchers, non-government organisations, and businesses started in October 2016.

SoE Digital is a step-change in environmental reporting. User-centric design and advanced search and visualisation features make analysis accessible to anyone, anywhere.

Spatial data is explorable through SoE Digital, and datasets can be viewed through the SoE instance of NationalMap. Geospatial overlays then provide the opportunity to find out new things. SoE Digital makes available over 330 government data sets, and enables previously impossible research and analysis for informing business planning and investment and policy and program design.

All data used in State of the Environment reporting is stored on data.gov.au, the Government's open data portal. All of the data available for download can be found at data.gov.au/organization/state-of-the-environment.

Bioregional Assessments and the impacts of coal and coal seam gas developments

Bioregional assessments involve a broad range of data from disciplines such as geology, hydrology, hydrogeology, modelling and ecology. The data has been provided by state and Australian governments, industry, technical experts, regional communities and individuals.

The information made available under the Bioregional Assessments program will be useful for the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development, state government regulators, natural resource managers, coal seam gas and large coal mine proponents, and interested community members.

Making this valuable information publicly available is an important aspect of the program. The degree of openness and potential for re-use varies between regions due to differing amounts of information and license restrictions. There are over 1,100 datasets available for download from the Government’s public data information service (http://data.gov.au/organization/bioregional-assessment-programme).

Information on the bioregional assessments, the approach, methods, products data and metadata are available on-line at http://www.bioregionalassessments.gov.au/. This Information Platform was developed from February 2015 and went live in April 2016.

Between January and June 2017 over 5,600 users, mainly from Australia, but with some users from the USA, UK and Japan, visited the site. They viewed nearly 24,000 pages of assessment content. There were over 1,100 returning users. 

To allow users to explore the data and assessments visually, the bioregional assessments team has developed an on-line mapping tool, the Bioregional Assessment Explorer. The Explorer tool was launched to visualise the results for the Maranoa-Balonne-Condamine assessment in January 2018. Interactive spatial results for the remaining assessments, Hunter, Gloucester, Namoi and Galilee, were progressively made available as they were finalised in 2018.

Other stakeholders

Government: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Data61 (National Map); Department of Finance (govCMS); Bureau of Meteorology; Geoscience Australia

Non-Government: Private web development companies; researchers; non-government organisations; and businesses involved in defining user needs and user testing

Steps to implementation

Implementation Step Implementation Period Status

Publish the State of the Environment 2016 report through an online information publishing and reporting platform and release the underlying data on data.gov.au.

Mar 2017 Completed

Launch a map-based tool to visualise Bioregional Assessment results

Early 2017-June 2017 Completed but delayed

Status updates for commitments are provided approximately every two months. With each update, agencies are encouraged to provide further and better particulars of the commitment and its steps to implementation, which may result in changes to timelines outlined in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18.

Last updated: 12/02/2019

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