COVID-19 & Sovereignty Standards

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The right time to review data sovereignty standards

Rupert Taylor Price, CEO, Vault Cloud
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The pandemic has shown us how little we can take for granted. Much that is hard won is so easily lost. The same has long been true when it comes to Australians’ trust. Yet gaining and maintaining that trust is a crucial step in the ongoing digital transformation that will help to fuel our recovery from COVID-19. 

In August in a speech to the National Press Club, Stuart Robert MP, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services, was right to argue that there’s much more work to be done by the government in this regard.  

Pointing out some of the fantastic advances made by Services Australia in delivering on digital service expectations, Roberts noted government plans to do more to acknowledge community expectations around privacy and data security, and to be more transparent in how it is managing the sensitive information that Australian citizens share.  

In its effort to achieve this, Roberts announced the government will examine the sovereignty requirements that apply to certain data sets held by government, in addition to the existing Protected Security Policy Framework. Considerations will include whether selected data should only be hosted in Australia, in an accredited Australian data centre, across Australian networks, and only accessed by the Australian government and our Australian service providers.  

“We need to ensure that Australians can trust that Government will appropriately manage the information that they provide to us,” said Roberts. 

This wide-ranging reassessment of government data handling is to be commended. As I argued in a piece released after my recent appointment to the board of the Australian Information Industry Association, our future economic prosperity hinges upon our ability to close the technology gap and foster a new age of digital transformation. Getting there requires clear data sovereignty rules and regulations, along with further investment in our technological and domestic capabilities including addressing major skill gaps.  

Our government has already implemented some legislation to support our data sovereignty. Take the recent changes to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (FATA) for example, which empowers the Treasurer to review, limit, or prohibit foreign investments in “sensitive national security businesses”, keeping in mind that this might give foreign access to sensitive national data.  

But more must be done. It’s critical that we improve the base security level of all sensitive data handled by the government.  

This review of how the government keeps sensitive data safe and secure within our borders and under Australian jurisdiction is all the more relevant at a time Australian data is under sustained attack from those who would seek to access our sensitive data for malicious ends.  

Beyond legislation, raising public awareness remains paramount to data security. It’s important that citizens have the knowledge to demand the protection of their own assets. This requires an education program in the public  domain  about how their data is managed and shared both with the Government and with the private sector. 

Vault Cloud is committed to playing its part as we work towards the goal of greater data sovereignty, transparency and trust. The five year, centralised whole-of-government agreement we announced last week, will see Vault Cloud offer secure, sovereign cloud services to the New South Wales government, is one step on this journey. That deal represents a win-win: cheaper, more secure and consistent access for government agencies to a sovereign cloud. 

By simplifying and securing multiple government cloud services under one architecture and workflow we can help to not only boost cost-efficiencies but also empower governments with better visibility and control over Australian data.  

As the legislative environment evolves we also anticipate government initiatives around transparency and security of data to open more doors for other Aussie innovators who can provide innovative ways to keep our data secure. Getting this right is in everyone’s best interest. As Minister Roberts said, digital transformation of government and the data sharing that goes with it will help Australia to grow and prosper well into the future. A foundation of transparency and trust is fundamental.

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