Open data policy

NSW Government Open Data Policy

 The objectives of this policy are to assist NSW Government agencies to:

  • release data for use by the community, research, business and industry
  • accelerate the use of data to derive new insights for better public services
  • embed open data into business-as-usual
  • use data to inform the design of policy, programs and procurement
  • support the use of data by the NSW Data Analytics Centre for research and evidence-based decision making
  • advance citizen engagement with government and the work of government
  • support the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act) and promote simple and efficient compliance with the requirements set out in that Act. 

What is open data?

This policy focuses on datasets as an aspect of information defined in the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act).

A dataset is an identifiable collection of government-held information or data. Most commonly a dataset corresponds to the contents of a single database table, or a single statistical data matrix. The term can also be used to refer to the data in a collection of closely related tables. A dataset may comprise a smaller grouping (or subset) of data which, though limited by some constraint or feature type, is located physically within a larger dataset.

Data is open to the extent that its management, release and characteristics meet the principles of openness outlined in this policy. Open data should be both technically available and usable, and have licensing frameworks in place to facilitate its release and use. This policy applies to all NSW Government agencies including cluster agencies, Departments, Statutory Bodies and Shared Service Providers. In accordance with Premier’s Memorandum M1999-19 Applicability of Memoranda and Circulars to State Owned Corporations, the Policy is not mandatory for State Owned Corporations, although it is recommended for adoption. NSW Government funded research data must also be made open under this policy. Target audiences for this policy include government agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs), academia, industry (including ICT developers) and members of the public who are interested in or have a specific use for government data.

NSW Open Data Advocate

The Information Commissioner promotes public awareness and understanding of the object of the GIPA Act: to open government information to the public including authorising and encouraging the proactive public release of information by agencies. The Information Commissioner has taken on the role of NSW Open Data Advocate. The Open Data Advocate will play a key role in ensuring that the new Open Data Policy is successfully implemented. Activating the role of Open Data Advocate will provide assistance to citizens making a request to access information, and provide advice to agencies to streamline processes for data release.

The Information Commissioner may investigate and report on the exercise by agencies of their functions under and compliance with the GIPA Act, and can investigate complaints made about an agency’s conduct in carrying out its functions under the GIPA Act. This independent regulatory oversight role promotes accountability and public confidence in the release and management of data by government sector agencies.

The Information Commissioner oversees the transparency obligations of agencies in the GIPA Act including that:

agencies must make information publicly available as open access information under Part 3 Division 1 of the GIPA Act

disclosure logs where agencies must record information that has been requested formally and which the agency decides may be of interest to other members of the public (Part 3 Division 4).

The obligations of agencies are outlined in Part 3 Division 2 Agency Information Guides.

Open Data Principles

Open data principles lead to more responsive and smarter government, and better service delivery. To meet the obligations of this policy, agencies must manage data as a strategic asset to be: 

  1. Open by default, protected where required
  2. Prioritised, discoverable and usable
  3. Primary and timely
  4. Well managed, trusted and authoritative
  5. Free where appropriate
  6. Subject to public input

Agency responsibilities

1. Open by default and protected where required

Agencies will start from a position of data openness, favouring the release of data, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure (Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act).

A Rolling Release Schedule for agencies’ plans to publish open data is available on Data NSW. The Rolling Release Schedule targets improved formats for data and identify new high-value datasets for release.

 Agencies must:

  • Create and collect data in ways that support downstream processing and release
  • Incorporate open data into project, program, service, system and policy design
  • Make data available without reference to its potential end use by other parties
  • Ensure they own all intellectual property rights in the dataset, or that they have a sufficiently broad licence to permit its release
  • Comply with NSW Government policies for information security (e.g. NSW Cyber Security Policy) and other relevant NSW Government information security and privacy policies, state and federal legislation and guidelines) and the management of privacy for the individual
  • Apply information labels and security classifications which indicate whether data is protected, in line with the NSW Government Information Classification, Labelling and Handling Guidelines
  • Ensure safeguards are in place to manage and assess the release of sensitive datasets
  • Apply managed methods to support the release of otherwise sensitive data such as: redacting, consent, ethics approval, aggregating and third-party brokerage (mediator or integrator).

2. Prioritised, discoverable and usable

High-value datasets will be prioritised for release, in line with demand from the public and industry, as a result of stakeholder consultation, or where the release of the datasets will contribute to better service delivery in NSW. Data will be in a format that makes it easy to use, transform and reuse. Commonly accepted open data standards, are published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to enhance data usability.

When procuring or upgrading systems according to the ICT Investment Policy and Guidelines, agencies will consider the use of technologies that enable data to be consumed by other systems, without the need for manual intervention.

Metadata allows datasets to be found, understood, controlled and managed. It will be published with all datasets. It will define or describe content, quality, format or structure of a dataset, the system, location and context in which the dataset was produced, collected, processed or stored. 

Agencies must:

  • Release data which supports a range of outcomes, including; social, enhanced service delivery, agency core business, economic opportunity, generates efficiencies or reduced costs, supports evidence-based research or policy
  • Prioritise the release of datasets in response to public requests
  • Link datasets to Data NSW for discoverability and availability
  • Ensure datasets are technically open (machine-readable)
  • Apply creative commons licensing (default CC-BY) to facilitate the reuse of data, making it legally open
  • Apply the correct data standards to manage their data. See the Information Management Framework
  • Publish metadata with all datasets and the details of a contact person in their agency. Data NSW can assist with this and may be contacted through the contact form on the site
  • Assess the quality of their datasets prior to release with the Data Quality Standard. The standard can be used to report whether datasets meet the above requirements.

3. Primary and timely

Data will be released as collected at the source, with a high level of granularity, and not in aggregate or modified forms unless required to safeguard confidential or personal data. Reuse will acknowledge the source and include the metadata.

Agencies must: 

  • Implement mechanisms that enable automated, ongoing or periodic regular release of data, without the need for manual intervention
  • Publish live, real-time feeds where it enhances the utility of the dataset
  • Include timestamps or other information for users to identify the currency of the data
  • Make newer, replacement data available to users in a timely manner.

4. Well managed, trusted and authoritative

Users will be alerted to the quality and limitations of the data to ensure confidence that it is trustworthy and authoritative.

Data governance arrangements will be established and maintained in accordance with NSW Government’s information management principles and the Data and Information Custodianship Policy.

Agencies must:

  • Manage data in accordance with legislative and legal requirements, including those for data security and protection of personal information, intellectual property, business confidentiality and legal professional privilege
  • Apply sound archival practices to preserve data.

5. Access to open data will be free by default

The widespread use of data for innovation will be encouraged to achieve the maximum value from the data for the people of NSW, and to enhance transparency of government.

Agencies must: 

  • Provide data free of charge
  • Establish standard parameters for cost recovery (only for specialised data services).
  • Publish any fees for data use.

6. Subject to public input

 Agencies will engage with and are informed by the community, research sector and industry on the design of new datasets and data portals, and in deciding what data to publish and about publication practices.

 Agencies must:

  • Provide data in a way that is relevant to the transaction being undertaken or service being used
  • Participate in activities across jurisdictions to share and integrate data at the national level.
  • Publish community and industry feedback about the data.


This Policy is supported by an action plan to assist agencies in achieving open data objectives. This Policy is maintained by the Department of Customer Service.

Further information

Download the full NSW Government Open Data Policy.

Read the two page factsheet about the rights and responsibilities for open data users.


Last updated: 19 June 2019