Australian Public Service launches data profession

By on 23/09/2020
APS commissioner Peter Woolcott says recent events such as the coronavirus pandemic and devastating bushfires have accelerated the digital and data agenda. (Photo by Clay Stephens, BLM via flickr).

The Australian Public Service (APS) has launched its data professional stream, in a bid to boost the APS’s data capabilities and improve its gathering, management and deployment of data.

Underpinned by the APS Data Professional Stream Strategy, the creation of the new stream will involve recruiting specialist data graduates; improving training and career paths; establishing a Data Professional Network to share knowledge, expertise and best practice; developing data standards; and building better links across government, with private institutions and with academia.

The data stream will be led by Dr David Gruen, who was appointed Australian Statistician in December 2019, and overseen and championed by APS senior leaders.

“The APS has long recognised the value of good data and its role in effective decision-making,” Gruen said. “The launch of the data professional stream is a strong statement of the importance the APS places on making sure that we provide a service-wide approach to continually lifting the capability of our data users and data professionals, while attracting and retaining the best talent possible.”

Data has proved particularly important to government decision-makers since the outbreak of coronavirus, according to Phil Gaetjens, secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. His department set up a data analytics team early on in the pandemic, and compiled and analysed COVID-19 data from across jurisdictions, as well as from the private sector and overseas, the Mandarin reported. And last month Alistair Campbell, assistant secretary for COVID-19 data in Gaetjens’ department, told a GGF webinar how officials had tapped into real-time data sources to provide political leaders with an up-to-date picture of the virus’s spread and its impacts on Australians.

The Australian Public Service commissioner, Peter Woolcott, described how recent events have accelerated the digital and data agenda. “2020 has tested us all – as a people, as a government and as a public service,” he said. “It started with bushfires and we are now dealing with a global pandemic. However, even before the pandemic the world was changing rapidly. We were all working off a playbook which recognised that IT, digital and data were going to be the key to how we delivered services and how we sought and measured outcomes. This current crisis has dramatically accelerated these trends.”  

Reform agenda

The creation of the data professional stream was a recommendation of the Thodey Review of the APS, which was submitted to government in September last year. The review has also catalysed the launch of the Human Resources Professional Stream in October 2019, and the Digital Professional Stream in April 2020.

Randall Brugeaud, Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency chief and head of the Digital Professional Stream, noted that the data and digital professional stream teams have been working on pathways allowing professionals from each group to move between disciplines throughout their careers.

The professional reforms have been inspired and informed by best practice in the UK, New Zealand and Singapore, the APS said.  

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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