Future directions - Ethical data management

Article image - Future directions - Ethical data management LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam

In a first for Australia, the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has adopted a framework that puts ethics at the centre of data management across the local government sector.

It follows rapid growth in the use of data by local councils.

According to LGAQ President and Sunshine Coast Mayor, Mark Jamieson, the Association will use the new framework in its own data management and analysis and promote its value to councils across the state.

“Trust has got to be at the centre of any data-driven relationship, but especially one involving councils and their local communities. 

“People are rightly asking their councils to become more efficient and offer more value for the ratepayer dollar.

“Data analysis unlocks opportunities to achieve these objectives, but councils need to be mindful of retaining the integrity of data for the purpose for which it is collected and maintaining a person’s privacy.”

Mayor Jamieson said the LGAQ wanted to set a benchmark for local councils in Queensland by adopting the ethics framework and pledging not to sell or otherwise misuse personal data.

He said the framework contained a series of checks and balances around the use of data, including the establishment of a special ethics committee of experts to advise on the right way to go about analysing and interpreting data sets.

The three-member committee chaired by digital change specialist and former editor-in-chief of the Courier Mail, David Fagan, will meet regularly to monitor the implementation of the framework.

The other members of the committee are Queensland Council of Social Service chief executive officer Mark Henley and Holding Redlich partner Andrew Hynd, who has extensive experience in information technology and communications.

LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said the committee was a crucial part of the Association’s aim to ensure local government in Queensland led the way on data ethics.

“This is all about strengthening trust between local councils and the communities they represent.”

In January the LGAQ announced it had adopted the European General Data Protection Regulation gold standard for data ethics and integrity. 

In February it made public the membership of the independent datawatch committee to advise on its efforts to meet that standard.

Hallam said, “We are deadly serious about implementing the highest standards around the use of data and building trust with the broader community.”

In his Weekly Speak column on 22 February, Hallam wrote: “LGAQ has set aside $15 million to invest in data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), of which $6 million has gone into developing LG Sherlock, the Association’s Data Lake, a working blockchain and the Energy Detective, which will help councils make more wholistic, quicker and smarter decisions and save ratepayers untold amounts of money through using their data, and data from other sources, to improve processes.”

By the end of March, Hallam continues, LGAQ would be out to tender on a state wide network of Internet of Things sensors linked by one or a combination of 5G, Lowran, Li Fi or Sigfox telecommunications networks. 

“This will help create environmental monitors, smart streets, smart poles, smart bins and intelligent transport systems enablement. The system will provide real-time insights to encourage faster, better and cheaper council decision making, while also ensuring citizens have better data on which to base personal decisions.”

Hallam is quick to reassure they are not planning a big brother system and will concentrate on devices aligned to the operation of councils’ basic infrastructure and service responsibilities including streets, waste, mobility, noise, animal management, and environmental health.

“What we have done is big, bold and definitely world leading in its scope. Very importantly, the LGAQ has laid down a principles-led data ethics governance framework with independent oversight of this new undertaking.”