Australia funds expansion of identity scheme

By on 27/03/2019
Michael Keenan, Australia’s outgoing digital transformation minister, pictured second from right at an Australian Digital Council meeting

The Australian government will inject $67.2m (US$48m) into a national digital identity scheme to enable citizens to access public services via an online portal.

MyGovID is being developed by The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), and the new funding comes on top of $92.4m (US$66m) invested last year.

Outgoing digital transformation minister Michael Keenan said: “This investment will enable us to continue to develop the system and fine tune the pilots before making them available to everyone,” governmentnews.com.au reported. 

Testing phase

Three pilot schemes are currently running, with plans for five more before the end of the financial year. One of these is at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and allows users to log in with myGovID to apply for their tax file number. The ATO says application processing times have been cut from one month to one day.

Keenan was speaking during the launch of a new government brochure, Sharing Data Safely, at the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA). The document, aimed at government agencies, lays out key principles around data handling and is an attempt to allay some of the security concerns raised around the initiative. 

The new money will allow the government to expand myGovID and integrate it with the myGov portal, which currently has 15 million user accounts, Keenan said.

Standards framework

The DTA and government agencies are working together with digital service providers to develop the national scheme. To support this the government has produced a Trusted Digital Identity Framework: a set of rules and standards for agencies and accredited providers, to ensure the system is secure and accessible.

The aim is to eventually create an ID system that people can use to access both public and private sector services. The opt-in verification scheme will initially be available to the public via an iPhone app, and the DTA website explains that “further down the track, you will be able to create a myGovID from any device.” Users will upload a photo and register their mobile phone number, email address and details from their driver’s license, passport or Medicare card. 

Verify’s benefits unverified

Meanwhile, civil servants overseeing the UK’s national identity verification scheme have appeared before the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee to explain why uptake of the Verify service has fallen so far short of expectations.

Government Digital Service director general Kevin Cunningham told the panel the government has “not transformed as quickly as we had hoped.” And civil service chief executive John Manzoni admitted that targets set in 2015 had been “optimistic”, adding that “there is no excuse for clunkiness” in the user experience.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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