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Government's own 'Napster' project clouded by integration

Government's own 'Napster' project clouded by integration

The federal government's ambitious National Data Network (NDN) distributed research library is set to go into demonstration mode this April but must overcome integration problems before external organizations can participate.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) IT architecture director Don Bartley told a gathering of IT leaders in Sydney this week that the status of the NDN is that it's "at the point of trying to build".

"We've built an architecture and we've been heading towards providing a demonstration environment, so it's a feasibility at this point, just to show it can work," Bartley said adding it is set to go live in April.

The NDN is a peer-to-peer architecture, which Bartley described as "a sort-of dating service, it's the Napster of information".

Organizations involved in the project include the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Geoscience Australia, and CSIRO.

"The whole idea is to see how we can make this work but there are some complications," Bartley admitted.

The metadata is important, he said, so the ABS decided to build an ISO-compliant metadata repository.

"We've gone and acquired some open source code from an open source product [however] we don't really think the open source code will help us all that much but it will give us a little bit," he said. "Now we are embarking on constructing a metadata registry which we will use for the NDN and some internal needs."

Bartley said the external system will need to bring together organizations which will have different ownership of things on the metadata.

"So that's an interesting issue for us - how do you construct one of those and get these registrars and authorities to work with that?" he said.

CSIRO's health informatics division leader Dr Christine O'Keefe has been involved with the NDN project since it began and agrees with Bartley that managing the metadata will be a challenge.

"Can the metadata express custodian conditions on how its data is made available?" O'Keefe said. "To participate, an organization will have to devote significant resources."

Since CSIRO holds "significant" data stores it would like to participate as a custodian and is still looking for ways to contribute R&D for the NDN's development, O'Keefe said.

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