The future of data

 ‘The future of data’ is Chapter 1 in the Australia’s welfare 2023: data insights.

This page provides a high-level overview of the key messages presented in Chapter 1.

Download the full article: Chapter 1 [PDF 400 kB]

Download the full report: Australia’s welfare 2023: data insights [PDF 11.1 MB].

Data can be incredibly valuable. They can provide reliable information on health and wellbeing and on the impact of government policies and programs.

Much of the potential that data offer is yet to be realised as data are not always brought together in the way they could be. Data on government services have traditionally been analysed in isolation. This approach does not provide the sort of insights that can be gained by looking across service systems and focusing on how people engage with multiple services. 

Data linkage can provide much more comprehensive insights than are possible by looking at individual services in isolation, but it can be slow and resource intensive. 

This chapter explores the welfare information environment in Australia by discussing:

  • the importance of comprehensive and high-quality data
  • government service systems and data linkage
  • AIHW’s role in creating and reporting on evidence.

What is in this chapter?

The importance of comprehensive and high-quality data

Data can provide reliable and representative information on the quality of people’s lives and how that is changing; importantly, they can show how this can vary for different groups. They can also provide information on the impact of policy and programs. 

While data can be very valuable, data do not speak for themselves. The value of data is a function of how well they are used. 

When assessing the impact of a policy or program, you cannot just ‘look up the data’. For example, you cannot assess the impact of an employment program by simply observing the employment data, as employment is affected by many factors that may have nothing to do with that program, such as the state of the economy.

The quality of statistical analysis can affect the conclusions drawn from data.  Some conclusions change from better analysis not better data.

Government service systems and data linkage

A high proportion of data analysis on the performance of government services focusses on particular services in isolation. While this may, at times, be appropriate in many cases it can be quite limited. By focussing on individual services, it is not possible to understand how service systems operate or to observe the way in which people use multiple services. 

Through data linkage it is possible to understand how people use various services and this in turn provides information to policy makers on the interface between those services. 

This chapter describes examples of data linkage including:

  • the National Integrated Health Services Information Analysis Asset (NIHSI AA)
  • the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP).

It also describes the National Disability Data Asset, which is a large-scale data linkage project that brings together de-identified state and territory and Australian government data to gain a better understanding of people with disability’s life experiences across time, location and population group. 

AIHW’s role in creating and reporting on evidence

The AIHW is a leading health and welfare statistics agency. Its legislated role is to work with others to develop information standards and collections across health and welfare, and to publish statistics across these areas. 

The AIHW collects and uses data from a range of sources to present information on:

  • the characteristics of people and their health and welfare needs, and how these change during their lives
  • how the health and welfare needs of people differ depending on where they live
  • the availability and accessibility of health and welfare services in those places
  • how service use changes over time. 

This chapter provides information on AIHW’s plans to improve data on aged care and on family, domestic and sexual violence. It also highlights the successful use of both single-touch payroll data by the ABS to provide very timely data on changes in employment, and linked data by the AIHW to better understand the health system.

Where do I go for more information?