New Zealand can be a world leader in the trusted, inclusive and protected use of shared data, to deliver a prosperous society.

The Data Commons Blueprint

A high-trust, lower-cost alternative to enable data integration and reuse.

The central challenge is trust. Data integration and reuse at scale can create significant value for all parties – data contributors, and data reusers – but only if people can create and maintain a high-trust relationship in regard to the transactions they are participating in.

Our Vision

If New Zealand enacts these principles, we will achieve an internationally competitive advantage in social and environmental outcomes, data sharing based entrepreneurship, and in science.

High Trust

We build trust and confidence in institutions involved through appropriate data use and management.


All parts of society, not just business or government, have the opportunity to participate and benefit from data use and reuse

High Value

Creates real benefits for New Zealand Inc.

Participant Controlled

Privacy concerns are addressed by providing individuals with greater control over the use of their personal, community, research and commercial data.

The amount, variety, and use of data is growing exponentially. Concerns about privacy and using data in service of the common good are growing just as fast.

The idea of establishing a Data Commons as a means to put these principles into action was first proposed by James Mansell in April 2015, in a report to the New Zealand Productivity Commission called Handing Back the Social Commons. Since then, the idea of establishing a Data Commons for New Zealand has generated a growing amount of interest and offers of support.

In June 2016 the New Zealand Data Futures Partnership, the NEXT Foundation, the Bioheritage Science Challenge, and Infection agreed to co- fund the development of a blueprint for an alternative model to enable data sharing in New Zealand.

The project had two deliverables:

Firstly, the formation of a network of interested volunteers in New Zealand who have a range of technical expertise and a deep interest in data integration and reuse. EXP Ltd (part of the Enspiral collective) was contracted to convene an open conversation, using online tools such as Loomio and Gitbooks, a series of workshops and interviews, and a two-day retreat with this group of volunteers.

The outcome of those conversations was the second deliverable, the Data Commons Blueprint, where we outline the conceptual thinking behind the idea of a “Data Commons” approach. We describe the high-level design features that will make it work, and outline the steps required to build one.

In preparing this document, the working group’s goal was to provide what we believe is a safer, lower-cost and higher-value alternative to the current approaches to the challenge of data integration and reuse. While there is still much work to be done, we believe this document establishes a model that is worth further investigation. The technical experts involved consider it to be relatively low-cost and technically feasible to prototype.

The New Zealand Data Commons Blueprint is published under an open Creative Commons license so that other people can extend the conversation. We are not the only group trying to solve the dilemma of how to use integrated data for public, economic, scientifc and environmental good while at the same time managing the significant risks inherent in doing so.