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NSW Government signs agreement with Microsoft to globalise data science capability

The NSW Government and Microsoft have signed a non-exclusive Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to turbo charge the Government’s digital and data agenda.

The NSW Data Analytics Centre (DAC) will work with Microsoft to commercialise its deep expertise in data science, optimising its ability to offer products both inside and outside of government.

In an initial Proof of Concept being developed under the non-exclusive MoU, DAC data scientists are using Microsoft Azure and a range of Azure cognitive services to build a machine learning neural network to categorise how the NSW Government’s $30 billion annual procurement budget is allocated each year.

NSW Minister of Finance, Services and Property, Victor Dominello said; “The NSW Data Analytics Centre is an employer of some of the best data scientists who are spearheading data analytics inside of government.

“Our partnership with Microsoft will allow the NSW DAC to go a step further, servicing not just NSW Government agencies, but governments and corporates around the world. The DAC will leverage Microsoft’s deep engineering expertise with the goal of commercialising within a year.”

Steven Worrall, managing director of Microsoft Australia, said the DAC served as a beacon, illuminating the sorts of data rich solutions that can now be created rapidly and deployed globally.

“This allows DAC’s leading data scientists to blend their expertise with the rich analytics capabilities of the Azure stack, our array of cognitive services and then leverage the trusted and high performing global Azure cloud, so that DAC can scale its solutions rapidly and make them available in other geographies.

“This really has the potential to shift the dial on data analytics for government and private enterprise,” said Worrall. “NSW is a genuine trailblazer.”

Proof of Concept

The Proof of Concept being developed by DAC and Microsoft focusses on the 8 million transactions which make up NSW’s $30 billion annual procurement budget.

Dr Ian Oppermann, NSW’s chief data scientist and DAC CEO, said that by taking a more data-driven approach the NSW Government expects clarity and insights that can help optimise decision making and ultimately policy.

One of the fundamental insights that the Government is seeking with the Proof of Concept is to validate what it’s spending money on, and then confirm whether it’s getting value for money.

“In the case of this particular project what we’re looking at is using some very sophisticated artificial intelligence techniques to analyse and categorise New South Wales’ procurement spend with the big picture goal of helping the people who are working to reform procurement, “said Oppermann.

The learning capacity of the system is impressive. Oppermann explained; “It’s been training itself over the last weeks and we have already seen improvements in its accuracy.”

Built on Microsoft Azure with the Azure machine learning stack and ability to build neural networks in the cloud, DAC has benefitted from the tight integration across the Azure stack. Oppermann said that has meant a project that might traditionally have taken three years to bring to fruition was up and running in less than three months.

Disclaimer: The DAC will not be required to provide or give Microsoft access to any data held by the NSW Government, whether personal information or otherwise, and any data exchanged pursuant to this MOU will be subject to NSW and Commonwealth privacy laws.