Dr. Audrey Lobo-Pulo is a Senior Adviser in the Australian Treasury, and is an advocate for open government, data science and open source software in government modelling. Audrey has worked on economic policy modelling in personal taxation, housing, pensions, superannuation, labour force, and population demographics. In an interview with Connect Intelligence, Audrey explains how the government can leverage technology to better connect with stakeholders.
1. What are the greatest challenges you face within your role?
In our current digital age of big data, policy analysts are faced with new challenges of navigating through a vast amount of information that may provide new policy insights. Apart from the sheer volume, velocity and variety of data, discovering and accessing new data sources may help inform current modelling practices. Harnessing the full power of this data involves much more than just data processing and modelling – it also requires an understanding of the social and economic systems that underpin our interactions and decision making.
Recognising the immense potential of privately held data for public benefit is also crucial for better policy development. As we go forward, key public-private data partnerships, such as the work done between the Australian Treasury and LinkedIn, may provide new collaborative opportunities for economic prosperity. When governments work together with the private sector in a transparent way that openly respects the data privacy and ethics, better outcomes may be possible for the greater good.
2. How can governments make the most of emerging technologies to better connect with stakeholders?
One of the greatest benefits of the internet has been unprecedented connectivity and information sharing. Over the last decade or so we’ve seen the evolution of new data and social platforms where individuals and entities can interact and create new markets for economic and social benefit. These new digital platforms provide governments with an infrastructure to engage and collaborate with stakeholders like never before.
For example, GitHub, a web-based version-control hosting service, provides governments around the world a platform to co-ordinate with an unlimited number of contributors on a specific project. This ‘scalable stakeholder engagement’ is just one of the many possibilities that technology offers governments to deepen public trust and collaboration.
Open data platforms are another example of how digital infrastructure can facilitate government openness through information sharing. These also have the advantage of encouraging public participation through the creation of new data-driven products that may benefit society.
3. How are governments working towards being openusing Government Open Source Models (GOSMs) and what are their potential benefits?
In recent months, the Australian Treasury released its CAPITA model, a general-purpose model of Australia’s personal income tax and transfer system, to allow the public to access, contribute and improve the evidence-based policy analysis used in Australia’s public policy debates.
In New Zealand, the Social Investment Agency also released their ‘Social Investment Analytical Layer (SIAL)’ code on GitHub and this is built on data from Stats NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure. It was estimated that since its release, at least $1million dollars and nine months of work had been collectively saved by reusing the code (at a cost of $144K for the initial code development) – and this figure is expected to increase with further reuse and modifications.
The enormous benefit that Government Open Source Models have to offer our communities is that of greater public collaboration and modelling transparency. Opening the doors of policy modelling to the general public allows governments to tap into new and undiscovered capabilities for creativity, innovation and efficiency, while building on public trust and engagement. This ultimately has the potential for presenting new opportunities for public policy reform.