InnovationXchange is DFAT’s $20 Million big data project with Bloomberg


Today the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop announced a new program known as InnovationXchange. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is one of the oldest parts of government and not exactly where you’d turn for innovation. Most rooted deep in traditional protocols, and hierarchies, but Bishop is asking all DFAT personnel to become innovators and hopes they can come up with some great ideas.

InnovationXchange will focus on how we spend aid money and develop developing countries in our region. Australia spends a lot on foreign aid (not as much as some would like) and this announcement comes with a recognition that a lot is wasted. The goal here is to make the aid system, or the dollars we do spend, the most effective they can possibly be. The expected impact includes 600 million people with high-quality birth and death certificate system, 2 million deaths a year with a documented cause of death for the first time ever, 700 million people living in a country with a rapid, efficient survey to collect health risk factor data.

First off the tracking of money needs to improve, dramatically. Organisations like Charity Water set the benchmark for contributors to track every dollar from their wallet to the well. This is the kind of fine grained tracking that’s possible with today’s technology, even across borders. In less developed countries there are technology challenges, but nothing that can’t be overcome with creative thinking and creative people.

To determine the places most in need of assistance, the program will look to leverage large datasets (or big data). Using sophisticated analysis of this data, it’s anticipated that aid can be better deployed and when it is deployed. No longer should we accept the transfer of aid funds to local or foreign citizens and allow it to be miss-spent. The program will work towards a future where there’s data available, even in developing countries to enable evidence-based policy decisions, right now, they’re basically guessing.

Bloomberg is a company that knows about data and our Foreign Minister seems to have made a strong relationship with the former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. Bishop says after a recent meeting, where they discussed this harnessing of data for evidence-based policy, she was impressed by his vision, his energy, his preparedness to think big.

The total budget of US$100 million over 4 years starting this year and DFAT’s global health team are making an initial $20m contribution over the first two years.


This project isn’t one Australia is embarking on alone, instead involving partner countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, PNG and Solomon Islands. If those aren’t the countries you immediately think of when the word Innovation is mentioned, that’s because they’ll be the benefactor of this project.  

It is hoped that aid is just the tip of the iceberg as DFAT continues to evolve foreign policy, economics, trade and investment, as well as cultural and education programs, combining with work on work on security and stability to round out the portfolio.

The 14-member International Reference Group will come together on a 6-monthly basis to discuss innovative approaches and new partnerships, critically assess progress and make recommendations to the Minster on future directions.

  • The Hon Julie Bishop MP – Minister for Foreign Affairs in Australia’s Federal Coalition Government.
  • Mr Michael Bloomberg  – Founder of Bloomberg LP and three-term mayor of New York City
  • Dr Bjorn Lomborg – Director Copenhagen Consensus Center USA In
  • Ms Veronika Lukito – CEO and Managing Director Ancora Capital, Indonesia
  • Ms Sam Mostyn – President, Australian Council for International Development
  • Dr Andrew Moutu – Director PNG National Museum & Art Gallery
  • Ms Tara Nathan – Executive Director, Public Private Partnerships, International Development, Mastercard
  • Ms Sally Osberg – President and CEO Skoll Foundation
  • Ms Annie Parker – Co-Founder of Muru-D, Telstra
  • Dr Sarah Pearson – CEO CBR Innovation Network Ltd
  • Dr Sam Prince MD – Founder of Mejico, Zambrero, Founder and Chairman OneDisease
  • Mr Sanjay Reddy – Vice-Chairman GVK
  • Mr Ryan Stokes – CEO Australian Capital Equity, COO Seven Group Holdings
  • Mr Chris Vein – CEO Dome Advisory Services

This short video will give you a glimpse of the depth and breadth of thinking we will have access to through our International Reference Group. The aim of the International Reference Group is to connect us with new thinking, new partners and new ideas.  And as you can see we have a range of contributors from across the globe from the United States, from Indonesia, from India, from PNG and bringing together their thoughts and their ideas with our Australian counterparts makes for a very exciting Reference Group.

Today Julie Bishop announced a US$100 million partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies on ‘Data for Health’. This is US$100 million, a US$15 million contribution from Australia and a US$85 million contribution from Bloomberg Philanthropies. That translates to AUS$130 million, AUS$20 million from the Australian Government and AUS$110 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

This will build the capacity of governments in developing countries to collect and use vital health information to build better health systems. This focus on using information to drive decision-making is a traditional blind spot in development. It seems basic, but it can change everything if we have both the right data and the knowledge to use it properly.

The Bloomberg partnership includes not only the Australian Government, but implementing partners, from Australia – The University of Melbourne, from the United States – John Hopkins University, Centres for Disease Control, The Union North America, as well as the World Health Organisation.   

More information at the InnovationXchange

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This post is authored by techAU staffers. Used rarely and sparingly when the source decided to keep their identity secret, or a guest author who isn't seeking credit.

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