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Q and A: Samantha Gavel on Data Management Across the Pandemic Spectrum 

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Data management has been given much attention during one of the most uncertain times in our history. It is very important for the Australian government to efficiently provide practical and accurate information on people during the most trying times of a pandemic crisis. 

During the occurrence of COVID-19, the Morrison government started the provision to its citizenry the information on various mobile applications, national portals and different social media platforms.  

Recently, Public Spectrum caught up with Samantha Gavel regarding her insights on data management as an NSW Privacy Commissioner.  

Samantha is one of the speakers to share her expertise on Public Spectrum’s 7th Annual Australian Government Data Summit 2021. This event aims to build on the governments’ data management and open access reforms, together with insights from Federal, State and Local Government. Innovative agencies representing the US and New Zealand governments are featured in the program, offering an international perspective. 

  1. What are the challenges in data management and privacy during the implementation of COVID-19 interventions?

SG: The pandemic has accelerated the use of digital technology and data globally and here in Australia. This has enabled large segments of the community to continue to work, learn and receive goods and services by using digital technology. In NSW, the use of digital technology and data has greatly assisted the Government and its agencies to respond to and manage the pandemic. 

At the same time, the increased use of digital technology and data has focused attention on the privacy and security risks posed by digital technology. In particular, cyber-crime is a key risk to privacy and has become more prevalent during the pandemic. 

It is important that organisations continue to meet their privacy obligations to their staff and the public during the pandemic and elevate their security posture to deal with the increased risk of cyber-crime. 

  1. How will data management be of use post-pandemic?

SG: Good data management, which includes robust data governance in relation to privacy and security, will be more important than ever post-pandemic. This is because the use of data and digital technology has accelerated as a result of the pandemic, with many employees working remotely and greater use of online services and purchasing by the public. 

Organisations can promote trust and customer confidence in their services by ensuring they have good data management practices in place. 

  1. In your opinion, how well is data management being implemented in our country?

SG: Some organisations manage it well, while other organisations find it more challenging. The challenges for each organisation are also different. For example, in banking, it’s critical to be able to keep customer and financial information secure, while also ensuring the availability of banking services when people need them. 

It is likely, however, that the majority of organisations will hold some personal or sensitive information, whether it relates to staff or customers, that needs to be protected and managed appropriately. It is therefore important for all organisations to prioritise good data management practice, to ensure this information is used appropriately and kept secure. 

  1. What are the implications of data privacy in managing personal information of patients?

SG: A patient’s health information is highly sensitive and must be kept secure and made available only to those who are lawfully authorised to have access to it. 

Any organisation which keeps patient records must have good data management, privacy and security practices in place, as well as a privacy respectful culture and appropriate training for its staff. 

  1. How do we observe data privacy in our activities of daily living?

SG: The increasing use of digital technology presents many challenges to our own personal privacy. Whether people are using the internet, email, social media or even fitness trackers and virtual assistants, I encourage everyone to inform themselves about the privacy risks of digital technology and think about their privacy when they provide personal information to receive a service. 

As consumers, we can all encourage organisations that provide services to us to respect the privacy of our personal information and keep it secure. Consider good privacy practice as an important reason to do business with those organisations that take privacy seriously. 

samanatha gavelThe involvement of the civil society, business establishments, and social entrepreneurs, and the general public in dealing with COVID-19 challenges and the aftermath has proven to be quite efficient and effective in decision and policymaking. Indeed, data management can be an effective tool for enhancing the delivery and manner of government services. 

In any form of a crisis situation, it is important than ever to reach the most vulnerable and helpless groups of the Australian society with prompt responses to their needs and a guarantee of social stability amidst the chaos. Engaged citizens are more cooperative and will most likely allow the government to address socio-economic concerns in the most productive approach possible. 

To know more about Samantha’s expertise, you can sign up for the 7th Annual Australian Government Data Summit 2021 where she will discuss more data management in government organizations. 

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