Growing a digital future: Creating a data governance framework (5 June 2019)

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Contributors: Assoc. Prof. Leanne Wiseman (Griffith Uni), Prof. Jay Sanderson (USC Australia) and Jane Trindall & Melanie Jenson (eds) (Cotton Research and Development Corporation).

Why is an agricultural data governance framework important?

As agricultural data collection gathers pace, both the risks and rewards of the collection, collation and sharing of this data will rapidly escalate.  

In the past couple of years, there have been two high level cases where swift action has been undertaken in relation to protecting Australian producer’s privacy in relation to data. In 2018, the Coalition Government decided to bring the Aussie Farms website under the Privacy Act, exposing it to potential penalties of up to $2.1 million if it breaches the Act. In 2019, AgForce deleted a decade's worth of best management practice data to protect the privacy of Queensland producers.

Both cases illustrate and highlight some of the risks of data sharing and how a consistent approach to guide best practice decisions around the collection, use and sharing of agricultural data would be valuable to the sector. Alongside managing risk it would build trust and accountability, which are important for the adoption of any new technology to drive productivity growth.

What is an agricultural data governance framework and what would it achieve?

Put simply, an agricultural data governance framework determines how and when decisions need to be made about the collection and use of agriculture data, as well as provides the framework to facilitate those decisions. A clearly set out ag-data governance framework will accomplish many goals including:

  • Provide clarity and consistency on roles and responsibilities relating to ag data
  • Establish rules for data use (e.g. collection and sharing)
  • Minimise the risks of collecting, storing and using data
  •  Meet regulatory and community expectations
  •  Facilitate strategic initiatives
  • Improve decision making
  • Improve communication
  • Increase the value of ag data, and help enable digital agriculture

Importantly, the framework will provide ‘principles of data governance’ for Australian agriculture that will support the strategic direction of the sector. These principles should address issues such as the circumstances under which data can be accessed, privacy and confidentiality of individuals and compliance with relevant legislation.

How does it get implemented?

This governance framework will help Australian agriculture implement a coherent and comprehensive approach to digital transformation. Implementing agricultural data governance involves substantial change for individuals and for agricultural organisations. The key to success will be collaboration between government, industry and businesses in turning this framework into action.

Growing digitally – what’s next?

Perhaps most importantly, it is necessary to link data governance to the overall industry strategy for digital technology in agriculture. Without clear purpose or objectives, an ag-data governance framework will be rudderless. The Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture project recommended a digital transformation strategy for the Australian agricultural sector be developed and digital agricultural taskforce be established.

This is an approach adopted by other sectors and countries to guide digital transformation globally. On 9 April 2019, 24 European countries signed a Declaration of Cooperation on ‘A smart and sustainable digital future for European agriculture and rural areas’ to support a successful digitalisation of agriculture and rural areas in Europe.

All of the Growing a Digital Future projects are designed to provide the basis of a coherent and comprehensive framework for the digital transformation of Australian agriculture. All projects will be discussed at the National Forum proposed to be held in early September in Canberra.


This project is a supported by funding from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia, Sugar Research Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, AgriFutures Australia, Wine Australia, Dairy Australia, Australian Pork Limited, Australian Eggs and Horticulture Innovation Australia. The project will be delivered by Griffith University and USC Australia in collaboration with CSIRO, and a KPMG consortia.

This article was original published on Linkedin by Jane Trindall, CRDC's Innovation Broker.