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Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications - 25/09/2015 - Smart information and communications technology in the design and planning of infrastructure

HEDBERG, Mr Olaf Hilmer, Chair, Victorian Spatial Council


CHAIR: Welcome. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the House. Would you like to make an opening statement before we proceed to questions?

Mr Hedberg : Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Victorian Spatial Council's submission. The council's principal recommendation is that simply making data available through smart ICT is by itself unlikely to maximise the utility of either the information or the technology in generating social and economic benefits through better design and planning of infrastructure. A parallel information management framework, or infrastructure operating alongside the necessary physical infrastructure, is critical to ensuring sustainable success and to the sharing of the information. Such a framework will provide the governance mechanisms necessary to ensure that data is well managed and is available and accessible when and whenever it is needed, using smart ICT. The Open Data Institute recently commented:

Governments, businesses and communities plan essential physical infrastructure carefully—our highways, electricity lines, water courses and broadband connections. We should treat data in the same way. We need to plan and create data infrastructures.

A comprehensive framework for spatial information management will ensure that data is being managed and made available in a way that facilitates and encourages its use and is clearly understood by users.

In many of the submissions there is a great deal of focus on the technology and the telecommunications infrastructure, but little is said about the data that underpins them, and how it is managed. Governments are the core supplier of critical data. It is an infrastructure, like roads, and should be supported accordingly. There is a set of data that should be considered in this way—positioning, roads, properties, addresses and topography.

Like other submissions, we have used examples, and indeed have linked them back to an information management framework. On pages 8 and 9 of the submission of the Department of Communications, there is a reference to interoperability of data but not to the need for the right management frameworks, or the recognition of the role of data as infrastructure. On page 10, it also refers to the infrastructure underlying smart ICT, but does not refer to data. We would argue that data is as much a part of this infrastructure as the example it refers to, and should be considered as part of the ecosystem, which they also make reference to.

The AIIA submission, on page 4, refers to NICTA's work on a data driven dynamic model. It is a good example. The examples in the submission of the Victorian planning minister's submission also rely on data management.

Our concerns are also incorporated in the joint submission with the University of Melbourne Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety, the University of Melbourne Centre for Spatial Infrastructure and Land Administration and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Australasia. Issues with data across jurisdictional boundaries, and where the responsibility lies in managing it and keeping it up to date are also not mentioned.

In conclusion, the council is of the opinion that maybe a national authority, with administrative and legislative powers, should be set up to administer all components of smart ICT, with the emphasis, I dare to say, on a national body rather than a Commonwealth instrumentality.

CHAIR: In your submission you refer to the US Geospatial Data Reform Act. Does that act address the issues that you think have been lacking in the submission of the Department of Communications?

Mr Hedberg : Yes.

CHAIR: So you think that is all-encompassing?

Mr Hedberg : Yes.

CHAIR: Would it be appropriate for Australian legislation, as well?

Mr Hedberg : I think I refer mainly to data as being fairly much jurisdictional. The Commonwealth does not have land titles and they do not own a lot of that sort of data. So the land administration is very much part of the bailiwick of the jurisdictions.

Mr PITT: In my view the data is one of the fundamental issues that this inquiry is looking at—how we manage it and how it should be sourced and what format it should take. I note in your submission—and you have spoken about it this morning—a reference to a parallel information management framework. Could you expand a little bit on the practicalities of that—the how, the when and by whom?

Mr Hedberg : I probably attached to the submission a document that the Victorian Spatial Council has put together. We certainly believe that there needs to be a proper information management framework, and that is to be able to set the rules for the collection, the disbursement and the responsibilities. Coming into that are the roles and responsibilities of custodians, for instance. If you accept the role as a custodian then you need to have the roles and responsibilities well set out. Victoria has done that fairly well.

Mr PITT: In terms of the data storage, we have had a number of different submissions about where and who should be responsible for it. There are a number of submissions that suggest it should be in the cloud and some that say it should be with local government, with the state government or with the federal government. We are talking about an enormous amount of data. Do you have any further comment to make on the physical locations, storage and security of that information?

Mr Hedberg : I would say quite categorically that the states all collect data in different formats and in different ways. Technology can bring it together. In my opinion there is no need to take that role and responsibility away from the jurisdictions. As you said, it is where you store it. In Victoria there is a common platform, and each of the state departments and local government can put data into it and people can search on it. Of course, metadata has to be there and be solid so that you know what is good and what is bad, how long ago it was collected and for what reason. But, as how it is stored, I think it can be stored in the jurisdiction still. Having access to it and the technology to be able to access it are possible—it is there now.

Mr GILES: Thank you for your submission, which is very interesting. I have a couple of thoughts on your concern to look to a legislative aspect to the framework. First, could you enlighten us about what is happening with the legislation that has been introduced into the US Senate? Is that likely to pass?

Mr Hedberg : The Victorian Spatial Council has been battling to have some legislation put in place. Reading what is happening in the US Senate at the moment is enlightening. We believe overarching legislation is what we need—not specific legislation, an overarching framework. For instance, an example is that local government in Victoria collects addresses, mainly, as we know, for their own purpose of rates and taxes. But they are not obliged anywhere in the legislation to pass that on to anyone. And addresses are a vital part of the geospatial fabric. So we have arrangements with all councils in Victoria to be able to pass on that data. But it is not legislated anywhere. So we thought there needs to be some overall legislation, such as the information framework, so that people can understand their roles and responsibilities.

Mr GILES: You talk about the need to get a greater level of consistency between jurisdictions. I presume that a major concern at the moment is that not only is there not a framework but there is an inconsistent approach between states.

Mr Hedberg : There does need to be some work on that. I was a member of ANZLIC for many years. Certainly, they endeavoured to do some of those things and they are still trying. But that is an organisation without any legislative backup. In fact, it is just a collaborative working group. That does not solve the problem at all. That is where legislation or some administrative orders need to be put in place.

Mr GILES: You talk about any such legislation being principles based. How challenging do you think it would be, at least amongst the technical community, to reach agreement on what should be in?

Mr Hedberg : I think that is why I said 'overarching'. We would not want to disturb the land title acts, for instance, in any of the jurisdictions. So an overarching legislation is what we were talking about, just to give it some direction. We had a report—I think that was mentioned in the submission—and I think the word 'land' was mentioned in 400 legislative documents. It can all be encompassed in overarching legislation.

Ms MARINO: Thank you for being here today. Your focus is something that has exercised the mind of the committee and various of our witnesses. As legislators, almost the last thing we want to do is more legislation for businesses and others. As a first step, when you talk about overarching legislation I imagine you are referring to the purpose and not the activities?

Mr Hedberg : Exactly.

Ms MARINO: But then in defining that in such a way that would not add significantly to the compliance issues already facing business, industry and individuals—I have plenty of them in my electorate—in your view what should be defined, essentially, in that overarching legislation in a practical way?

Mr Hedberg : I think it is essential that we do not complicate the legislation that is already there. Indeed, when we mentioned legislation in Victoria it was the Municipal Association of Victoria that believed it should be there. It is to purely get people to understand their roles and responsibilities. So the overarching legislation is a practical means for people to understand the purpose. It certainly was not going to impose anything on existing legislation. It was to get them to understand that they work in a collaborative manner, and it all comes together practically.

Ms MARINO: So, when we take that down—and I will perhaps go back to Mr Pitt's points about access; part of this is the data and the other part is who has access—in some instances we will have very real issues around security of the data. I see that that is going to be one of the challenges facing various levels of government—who has access, how it is accessed. And given that we have seen some very sophisticated hacking efforts internationally as well as at this level, I would also be very interested in any comments you would make on that issue.

Mr Hedberg : I spoke about custodianship, and I think that is the key. The custodian sets the rules. So, for privacy and access—

Ms MARINO: So, the custodian should be whom?

Mr Hedberg : The custodian is a named organisation. The custodian of roads might be the Department of Main Roads. And that department then makes the rules as far as custodianship is concerned. The roles and responsibilities of the custodian then dictate the access and the privacy.

Ms MARINO: Just to take that a step further, one of the things I am hoping we do not achieve in this is a layer-upon-layer approach. Say you are an individual business and you are involved in a road project providing technical expertise, or you might be a surveying company or whatever, and you need to use the data. One of the things I am particularly keen to see is that the individual business does not have to go through two, three or four layers. So, the overarching needs to assist in streamlining the process so that if there is, say, a department of health with an issue in that space, or if there is a department of the environment with an issue in that space—which there will be—or a department of local government who will be involved, the custodianship of the overall and how it is simple will be quite critical to how well and how effectively this is used and has achieved the efficiencies that we need it to and that it is capable of.

Mr Hedberg : Certainly I would agree, but the custodian agreements that are signed put that into perspective of what the roles and responsibilities of the custodian are—in other words, 'must keep the data up to date,' et cetera. For instance, with some of our custodian agreements with the service providers, such as power and water, they have some privacy issues. They do not mind telling you where the mains are, but they will not tell you exactly where some of their other infrastructure is. So that is a role that the custodian has to take on.

Ms MARINO: One of the things the inquiry has also focused on which I am particularly interested in is the access of emergency management groups right around Australia—mass casualty events, floods, fires. For instance, yesterday we heard about emergencies underground, and we now have the capability to look at those through this sort of technology far more efficiently than ever before. Where would you see that particular sector fitting into the issue that we are discussing?

Mr Hedberg : In Victoria they certainly fit in. Part of their custodial agreement is that that data is made available freely to emergency management. That is, again, written into a custodial agreement.

CHAIR: With the thought of not reinventing work that has already been done, I note that you refer to the US Geospatial Data Act. But in your additional information you also refer to Japan having one, and also South Africa. Are you familiar with those acts? And is there much of a difference?

Mr Hedberg : Certainly the act in South Africa is a very simple act; it is almost a one-pager. Obviously the act in the United States at the moment is much more complicated. But we just keep a watching brief on it, from a Victorian Spatial Council point of view, to see where the world is going.

CHAIR: Have those been enacted, in Japan and South Africa? Or are they like in America—still pending?

Mr Hedberg : They have been enacted in South Africa. I cannot verify Japan.

CHAIR: Is it easier if we ask your council to provide a copy of those acts? Can you do that?

Mr Hedberg : I am happy to do that.

CHAIR: All three—that would be most helpful.

Mr Hedberg : Yes.

CHAIR: That would be great. Thank you very much. Is there anything further you would like to add, given our line of questioning?

Mr Hedberg : No. I think I mentioned in my last couple of comments that I think we have to get into the practical side of this rather than the policy side. Indeed, I think it is important to keep in mind as we push on that too much of the policy side and not enough of the practical side will bring us undone. Our submission of course is purely that we believe that data is in infrastructure and it has to be recognised sooner or later that it is the foundation of smart ICT.

CHAIR: We have had some wonderful evidence that has demonstrated cost savings quite significantly.

Ms MARINO: Yes, and the other thing I would add is that as a committee we are looking not just at the cost savings in the build phase but also at the total life of the asset and the cost that sits in there and its management, as well as the growth ahead, in managing congestion. This sort of technology is going to have a major impact, so I think it is across all those fields.

Mr Hedberg : However, most of the submissions have certainly relied heavily on technology and so forth.

Ms MARINO: Yes, they have. But if you look at it, that is how, as a committee, we are considering what recommendations we might make.

CHAIR: And draft legislation.

Ms MARINO: And draft legislation.

CHAIR: That would be great. Mr Hedberg, thank you very much for attending our public hearing today. The secretariat will send you a draft transcript of proceedings so that requests can be made to correct any errors of transcription. And thank you very much for offering to provide that additional information. If there is any other information that you feel would be of benefit, understanding what we are trying to achieve, we would appreciate that as well. You may even want to respond to evidence of other witnesses. Thank you very much.

Mr Hedberg : Thank you.