Government mandating digital
Australians will see an ‘alpha’ version prototype of a new, national opt-in digital identity credential for government services as early as August this year; with a fuller version likely to emerge in 2017 according to the new Head of Identity at the Digital Transformation Office (DTO).
That’s the take from Rachel Dixon, the woman hand-picked to galvanise the agency’s efforts to develop a new user friendly, multi-agency key to provide secure and easy online access to government services and transactions for consumers.
That’s something that obviously we’d want to take into account in our [DTO’s] commercial arrangements.
If we were going to establish that market, that would be a big consideration in our negotiations.” Opting in: what a Digital Identity will – and won’t – do It’s no secret that Australia two most recent attempts to launch a national, government issued identity credential or document ended in failure thanks to the complex and often toxic politics that surrounded them.
Public Services, private products The announcement of the rapid, ground-up development of a new national digital identity credential has far-reaching implications for the private sector too.
Apart from the clear necessity for the federal government to urgently improve access to its services and transactions online, the appointment of a digital identity project chief has already aroused strong interest within the private sector, where online and offline identity verification requirements remain a significant cost and a major handbrake on rolling out integrated transaction services that can span business lines.
Both Bob Hawke’s ‘Australia Card’ (essentially a national photo ID card) and later Joe Hockey’s ‘Access Card’ (a multi-agency government services smartcard also with a photo) died swiftly amid fears the instruments could give government new and invasive powers to keep tabs on citizens.
“If you try and talk to consumers about identity it’s a difficult discussion because the question is ‘what is identity for?
But fewer, most of all agency customers, are satisfied with protracted waiting times and online services stuck a decade behind that of the mainstream digital economy.
Notably, the revelation of the DTO’s big digital identity push comes hot on the heels of the disclosure that the existing my Gov online access facility – which has been copping plenty of flak from users over recent months — is now be the subject of a formal audit from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to determine its effectiveness.
One of the key differences is that the federal government in Australia is already a market participant in identity verification services through the Document Verification Service (DVS) which is run out of the Attorney General’s Department and processed 21 million transactions last year.
Originally an internal government facility, in 2014 the DVS was expanded substantially to offer checking services to the private sector, a move that created a sought-after new source of revenue for the government, especially the Attorney General’s Department.“The issue then becomes do you expose the government to rent seeking at that point from a provider that wants to exit, but instead uses it to negotiate a better deal in order to stay in the market,” Ms Dixon says.