How will 'Big Data' reshape New Zealand?

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 13:24 02/04/2014

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The buzz word is "big data" and it's shaping government policy, but what does New Zealand's data future hold, and do we want to go there?

That's one of the questions being posed in the first discussion document released by the New Zealand Data Future Forum.

The brainchild of Finance Minister Bill English and Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson, the forum has brought together some of New Zealand's leading statistical minds across government, private and academic sectors.

The first of three discussion documents looks at the benefits, opportunities and risks of sharing large amounts of data, and what the future of New Zealand could look like if it fully used that information.

Forum chairman John Whitehead said New Zealand needed to answer those questions if it was to safely harness the power of shared data and manage privacy at the same time.

But it's not only the way data is collected, it's also the type of data now being gathered that will shape the way we access information about the Government, and in turn, how the Government and businesses access information about us.

The discussion paper highlighted examples where the Ministry of Education was already developing population projections, building consent data and school enrolment data to work out where new schools should go.

But by using geospatial, population and traffic information, it was possible to work out where to place for a school or hospital so it would be of most benefit to the community as well as cutting travel time to get to those places, the discussion document said.

But the forum was not only looking at government functions. Data could also drive the New Zealand economy and businesses further, making transactions easier and building larger profiles of individual consumers.

Data and technology already existed that would allow prospective home buyers to, at the press of a biometric button, tender for mortgages at the same time an auction was being carried out.

Through an app, payments could be made, contracts exchanged and, within minutes of an auction being won, a home could change ownership.

"What's amazing about this is that all the data necessary to enable the above scenario to occur already exists, but today it's locked away, largely inaccessible in vaults that are owned by different companies, organisations and government departments," the discussion document said.

"In a future where you control your data, and consent to access to it for services you want, those silos and vaults begin to disappear."

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The forum is calling for public submissions to the document, which can be found on the nzdatafutures.org.nz site.

The public submission period closes on June 30, after which the forum will make recommendations on how New Zealand should be proceeding with its data use.

- Stuff

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