Australia launches public consultation on digital identity programme

By on 24/11/2020
The consultation states that the laws would 'support and strengthen' the digital identity system by making current privacy protocols more robust and establishing governance arrangements. Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) is consulting with the public and businesses on new laws to support the rollout of its digital identity programme.  

The consultation, which opened last week, states that the laws would “support and strengthen” the digital identity system by making current privacy protocols more robust and establishing governance arrangements.  

At the moment, for example, the digital identity programme is regulated by an interim oversight authority under the DTA with support from Services Australia. The proposed legislation, however, hands governance to a permanent independent oversight body or bodies. This would be guided by the principles of independence, transparency, and accountability. 

Plans for expansion

The digital identity system is only used by a limited number of federal agencies at present. More than 1.8 million Australians and 1.2 million businesses now use the digital identity system, myGovID, to access about 70 government services, according to the consultation notes.

“A number of digital identity providers already operate in Australia,” the document states. “This includes Australia Post’s Digital ID service, which provides digital verification services for a range of public and private sector organisations including Airtasker, banks and foreign exchange services.” 

“While initially focused on federal government services, we are working towards digital identity being a whole-of-economy solution,” the consultation states. “This will connect state and territory and private sector services, making things easier for everyday Australians and businesses. The passage of digital identity legislation will make it easier for these types of relying parties to participate in the digital identity system.” 

Digital identity is “key element” of prime minister Scott Morrison’s JobMaker Digital Business Plan. This programme aims to support businesses to continue the digital transformation seen during COVID-19 to grow and boost the country’s post-pandemic recovery. In September, Morrison pledged $800m ($USD 582m) dollar to the plan.

But, as previously reported, the government had hoped that the roll out of the digital identity system would have made substantially more progress by now. Last year, Jonathon Thorpe, head of digital identity at the DTA, said that the system would be fully up and running by the end of the 2019-20 financial year. 

The programme was delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic and usability concerns. “A private beta undertaken earlier this year highlighted the need for some additional features to enhance the user experience before a broader public release of this functionality,” a DTA spokesperson told InnovationAus at the time. 

The consultation is open until December 18.

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