Australia considers centralised digital ID system; Ghana urged to invest in AI to beat corruption: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 13/10/2022 | Updated on 13/10/2022
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Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

Australian government mulls centralising digital ID verification following breach

The Australian government is deciding whether to rework its myGov public service system to centralise digital identity (ID) authentication after a data breach earlier this year exposed the personal data of almost 10 million citizens.

The former chief executive of Australian telecommunications company Telstra, David Thodey, was recently hired to audit myGov when the newly elected Labor government came into power earlier this year.

The purpose of the audit was to assess whether MyGov, which hosts more than 25 million active accounts, could be turned into a single system to reduce the need for citizens to submit ID paperwork multiple times. The proposal has its critics however, who argue that a single system design would be still be vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.

The breach in September targeted Optus, Australia’s second-largest telecommunications company, leading to the theft of millions of passport, driver’s licence and Medicare numbers. The attack has since started debates around the risk posed to customers by companies that typically request personal data from multiple sources of identification.

Read more: Major review of Australia’s government service platform launched

“Within the audit’s remit is to consider how myGov can deliver seamless services that will frequently involve private enterprise service providers,” said a spokesperson for Bill Shorten, the country’s minister for government services.

“This would prevent the need for citizens to provide sensitive data multiple times to multiple entities.”

US state department confirms data dialogue with UK

The US state department recently launched an initiative aimed at building cooperation between the US and the UK on matters relating to data transfers.

The decision to launch the UK-US Comprehensive Dialogue on Technology and Data follows the Biden administration’s revised US-EU privacy shield. Its main aim is to strengthen bilateral cooperation and data security between both countries.

A key feature of the dialogue will be a yearly meeting between senior officials on topics ranging from data protection and sharing to critical and emerging technologies, as well as the development of strong digital infrastructure. Artificial intelligence (AI) and supply chain weaknesses are also likely to be discussed by both governments.

Read more: Has one US state discovered the secret to successful government data sharing?

“The United States and the United Kingdom recognise the strategic importance of technology to our prosperity and security and to promoting and protecting our shared democratic values globally,” a statement by the state department said.

It added: “This commitment has led to deepening collaboration on shared priorities including promotion of cross-border data flows and support for privacy-enhancing technologies; semiconductors; supply chain vulnerabilities; telecom supply chain diversification; ensuring responsible development and deployment of AI; and planning for closer cooperation on quantum information sciences and technology.”

Ghanian government told it must invest in Artificial Intelligence

The government of Ghana was recently urged to invest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a necessary tool to crack down on state corruption.

The advice was given by Dr Chris Kpodar, executive director at Solomon Investment Ghana Limited and chief technical advisor of Centre for Greater Impact Africa (CGIA), during a forum organised by the Ghana News Agency (GNA). He added that the country risked losing vast amounts of money if it did not acquire the technologies needed to phase out manual operations linked to corrupt practices.

“Artificial Intelligence has the capacity to reveal or even predict corruption or fraud that previously was nearly or completely impossible to detect,” he stated.

Dr Kpodar added that implementing AI as an anti-corruption tool would mean redesigning systems with unique vulnerabilities to bribery and corruption, and making sure what replaced them had transparency, integrity and trustworthiness built in.

Speaking on behalf of GNA at the forum, Francis Ameyibor, the agency’s Tema regional manager, stressed the importance of preserving public trust for future generations.

“The redemption of Ghana from corruption would immensely benefit not only the present generation of Ghanaian children but even those yet unborn because it would create a very strong foundation to make the economy resilient and buoyant.”

Biden launches AI Bill of Rights to safeguard American citizens

US president Joe Biden has set out plans to create an AI Bill of Rights that is intended to protect citizens from automated systems “that threaten the rights of the American public”.

The blueprint is intended to provide a guide to the development of artificial intelligence across the US, as part of an effort to address concerns that AI systems can embed or exacerbate existing societal biases.

According to the White House, “well documented” problems with AI include that systems which are supposed to help with patient care have proven unsafe, ineffective, or biased, while algorithms used in hiring and credit decisions have been found to reflect and reproduce existing unwanted inequities or embed new harmful bias and discrimination. In addition, unchecked social media data collection undermines people’s privacy, often without their knowledge or consent.

The White House said that these “deeply harmful” outcomes are not inevitable and added that automated systems and algorithms had also brought benefits, such as helping farmers to grow food more efficiently, predicting storm paths and identifying diseases in patients.

However, to ensure positive outcomes, the White House said “civil rights or democratic values” needed to be affirmed, in line with Biden’s pledge to use the power of the federal government to root out inequity, embed fairness in decision-making processes, and advance civil rights, equal opportunity, and racial justice.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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