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Australia's digital identity

It's been some time in the making, but digital identity is on its way. GovPass is currently in beta and expected to be rolled out next year.

Salsa Digital 31 October 2017

The back story

There's been a lot of government and media coverage on digital identity for a couple of years now. In fact, we've been watching the space for a while (with a blog in mind), but it's been a moving target! Perhaps you've also been watching the digital identity story unfold.

In the early Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) days (when it was the DTO), digital identity was firmly on the DTA's agenda - not surprisingly given it would be the cornerstone of many digital services and transactions for the government. (Digital pioneer Estonia is a great example of how so many services relate back to digital identity.) However since those early days, the DTA's original CEO left, the DTO became DTA and the head of the digital identity project also moved on. So it's not surprising that this huge project has experienced some uncertainty.

In December last year Australia Post also released its digital identity white paper and then launched its own digital identity services this year (Australia Post's Digital IDTM is available as an app). In fact, in May this year the DTA and Australia Post started working together (if you missed it in May, you can read about the partnership in The Mandarin).

Where we're at now

The DTA released a GovPass update on 17 October. GovPass is now in beta testing with the ATO, with a broader rollout expected early next year, before the full launch later in 2018. As part of this update the DTA included a video that shows GovPass in action. Using this service, people will be able to 'prove' their identity once and then use that login for multiple services.

Govpass — your digital identity

As part of the broader digital identity project, the government has also been working on its Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) with industry and privacy advocates. The 12-month consultation process closed on 20 October.

The TDIF consists of 14 documents, covering everything from the structure and overview of the framework to fraud control, privacy and the user experience. You can read a list of the 14 documents with brief summaries at the end of's article National digital ID to go public.

The benefits

The benefits are clear - a digital identity would save time and money for consumers and the government (and private sector organisations that choose to use GovPass). The government's vision is one login (GovPass) for everything...from government services to online banking. In September, Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Traylor told Sky Business: "If I'm a consumer and I can establish who I am, I can switch between banks or energy providers or telcos or childcare providers, then I can save money."

Digital identity could also be used as the foundation of many other government digital services (again, see our blog on Estonia for some examples), and so will open up Australia's options for online services.

The risks

Like many (maybe all) things digital, GovPass and digital identity programs in general raise privacy concerns. This is why the government has been working with privacy advocates and why the TDIF includes a privacy assessment, security assessment, core privacy requirements, core protective security requirements, core risk management requirements, core fraud control requirements, digital identity proofing standard and a risk management guide. You might also like to read the DTA's GovPass - Privacy by design blog.

Salsa Digital's take

Like many of the revolutionary changes we've blogged about in this series, privacy is definitely a key issue. However, the government is clearly taking the slow and methodical approach to ensure these concerns are dealt with and that people's information and privacy is protected. GovPass is an opt-in program, and we'll be watching with interest next year and in the coming years to see what percentage of the Australian population takes the leap with this transformative offering. Once it's up and running we're sure we'll be working on lots of government websites that use GovPass. We'll keep you informed about digital identity in Australia and how changes will affect government at all levels.

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