When you move data from one application to another, the way the data is structured may not be compatible between the two systems. Data exchange is the transformation or restructure of the data to suit the new system. The aim of a data exchange is not to lose or change the meaning of the information in the transfer.

Exchange standards

Data exchange standards are formal rules for the structure of data elements. A data exchange specification is a common model used by agencies and standardises the format in which data will be shared. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) develop data exchange standards such as ISO 20614:2017 Data exchange protocol for interoperability and preservation.

Exchange agreements

Your agency should develop an agreed exchange format and structure with agencies you are supplying and receiving data from. This reduces time and effort required in restructuring or reformatting data. Agreed data exchange formats and structure also ensures users have a better understanding of the data and can reduce manual requests.

An example of an agreed data exchange is the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), which is a common vocabulary that enables efficient information exchange across diverse public and private organisations. NIEM ensures that information carries the same consistent meaning across various communities by using a dictionary of agree terms, definitions, relationships and formats regardless of how the information is stored.

Data exchange languages

Data exchange languages facilitate how applications interpret each other's data. Common data exchange languages include RDF, XML, JSON, YAML, REBOL and Gellish.

Platforms for data exchange

When looking to implement data exchange solutions, agencies should first look to try and reuse existing government platforms and data hubs. Metadata registries are another platform that agencies can use to facilitate data exchange. For example, data.gov.au provides government agencies an easy way to find, access, publish, and reuse public data.

The Digital Transformation Agency’s Australian Government Architecture includes a common approach to integration to enable the management of cross-agency sharing of information.

If an existing solution is not available agencies should look to conduct a technology evaluation to find the most suitable technology. A popular mechanism of data exchange is through the use of Application Programming Interfaces (API) or web data services

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