Australia’s digital ID project delayed

By on 03/08/2020
The DTA had planned to conduct testing of the facial recognition aspect of its digital identity programme in “mid-2020”, but confirmed that it has not yet selected a software vendor to enable this. (Photo courtesy Pxfuel).

The Australian government’s plan to integrate its myGovID digital identity with the myGov service platform has been delayed, after a trial uncovered usability concerns. 

The digital ID will replace myGov’s existing two-factor authentication system, allowing citizens to verify their identity when applying for passports, driver’s licences, Medicare cards and other documents, as well as to access other government and private sector services. It is part of the wider digital identity ecosystem GovPass, which has cost more than AUS$200m (US$143m) since work began on it in 2015.

This year was to have been a significant year for the project. Jonathon Thorpe, head of digital identity at the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), said last year that myGovID would be fully up and running by the end of the 2019-20 financial year. However, only two government-funded digital identity services have so far been accredited: the Australian Taxation Office’s, which replaced the ageing AUSkey system, and Australia Post’s offering.

A number of deliverables – including the plans to integrate the digital identity with myGov, introduce facial recognition technology, accredit private sector companies into the scheme, and run a public awareness campaign – have been delayed due to COVID-19 and flaws highlighted in beta testing.

More work to be done

A trial run by DTA uncovered the need for more work to be done before the integration of the ID and myGov is ready for launch. 

“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.

The trial found that “some changes will be required to improve the usefulness and simplicity of the offering,” including the “remediation of some system integration errors, changes to content to better support the understanding of the process, and changes to the way names are captured and shared across services,” a spokesperson said, as reported by ITnews

The spokesperson added that “due to increased pressures and surging demand for government services”, the decision was taken to delay a broader rollout of myGovID until later this year. “This will allow critical resources to focus on the government’s response to COVID-19,” they said. 

Facial recognition functionality

The DTA had also planned to conduct testing of the facial recognition aspect of the digital identity programme in “mid-2020”, but confirmed that it has not yet selected a software vendor to enable this. Earlier this month, Government Services minister Stuart Robert claimed in an address to the National Press Club that facial recognition functionality will become available through myGovID in September.

Meanwhile, despite criticism in a number of Senate estimates hearings, there has been no news about when the public awareness campaign might launch. According to a government listing for a communications specialist to create the campaign, its aim is to “inform all Australians about what [myGovID] is and what it isn’t – highlighting potential benefits it offers to everyone and especially to those who choose to make use of it”. 

InnovationAus reported that the DTA has also recently looked to bring in contractors to work on a plan to monetise the digital identity scheme, and to assist with accrediting private companies into the ecosystem.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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