Survey participants and process

In August 2023, the Governance Institute of Australia initiated an online survey on data governance. A total of 345 responses were received over a one-month period.

Respondent profile

The largest cohorts of respondents (Figure 2) were senior governance or risk management professionals (25%) or CEO or C-suite executives (21%). As such, the survey results reflect the strategic thinking and high-level planning of organisations relating to data governance. It would have been interesting to also understand the demographics of the respondent profile through the collection of data relating to age, sex, ethnicity and postcode. These could all
have a potential influence over the observed responses.

Figure 2

Types of organisations

While the survey respondents represent a diverse set of Australian organisation types, it is dominated by not-for-profit organisations (36%) and government (21%) organisations, with small to medium commercial enterprises forming 18 per cent of respondents and ASX listed companies forming a mere 10 per cent. This may perhaps suggest that the commercial sector is presently somewhat hesitant to engage in data governance discourse. This may further reflect an appreciation of the potential commercial risks and reputational damage associated with not having an appropriate data governance strategy, and the imprudence of communicating on this matter without due consideration and formal endorsement.

As the data governance practices and policies of organisations develop and crystallise, we can expect greater involvement in such surveys by the commercial sector. We have seen such a trajectory in relation to digital data privacy, where initial uncertainty and a reluctance to engage has been replaced with greater confidence and transparency on privacy policies and practices.

In the case of data privacy, the catalyst for this shift was the enactment of the Australian Privacy Principles that mandated that legislated entities enact a Privacy Policy (Australian Privacy Principle 1). As data governance is not the subject of such clear legislative mandate, it may take some time for such practices to become a central part of organisational governance. The findings suggest that there is a need to actively engage with organisations to strengthen awareness of the importance of data governance.

Industry sectors

The survey results (Fig. 3) represent a diverse group of industry sectors, including health care and social assistance (20%), finance (13%), education (11%), science and technology (10%), public administration (7%), energy (4%), manufacturing (3%), information media and telecommunications (3%) and construction (3%). The strong involvement of the health care sector is likely due to this sector’s sophisticated appreciation of the highly sensitive nature of health data and the vulnerability of the patients whose data they hold, and the clear health sector requirements in this area. Strong national health guidelines on data governance may also be driving this increased engagement with data governance initiatives, such as this present work by the Governance Institute of Australia. It is relevant to note that the federal government is currently developing governance arrangements so that researchers and public health policy makers can apply to use My Health Record data. The first step in this process is to establish a Data Governance Board as part of the ongoing governance arrangements required to oversee future My Health Record data research projects. As such, data governance is particularly pertinent and topical for this sector.

In comparison, the strong involvement of the financial and insurance services sector is likely to be driven by an appreciation of the need to maintain consumer confidence, especially considering the results of the recent Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. Like the health sector, this engagement is also likely to be driven by an appreciation of the highly sensitive nature of financial data, and the substantial financial losses that would be incurred by its inappropriate use or disclosure.

What is surprising is the relatively low involvement of the information services sector. Given the technical and data expertise entities in this sector would most likely possess, it may have been expected that this sector could lead the discourse on good data governance. This is an interesting but also worrying finding.

Figure 3

For any assistance with addressing the data governance needs of your organisation, do not hesitate to contact your local PKF Audit and data governance expert.

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