One step forward, one back for digital identity plans in Australia

Belarus launching biometric ID cards
One step forward, one back for digital identity plans in Australia

New South Wales’ government has abandoned a plan to roll out a ‘copy solution’ for its mobile driver’s licenses due to privacy concerns, iTnews writes. The idea had been to enable the digital credential, based on the physical license, to generate a paper copy.

The state recently passed laws to make the optional digital identity credential legally equivalent to the physical card, and had planned the solution as a way to extend its acceptance beyond police checks and licensed venues, according to the report. For situations where a photocopied driver’s license would currently be required, like opening a bank account or renting a car, the solution could be used to confirm the applicant’s identity to the business.

NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the government was unable to find a solution that enhances privacy and security. Those concerns are prominent in NSW since a database of more than 54,000 scanned driver’s licenses from the state were exposed on an open AWS server in August.

“Because ultimately a – paper copy – of the DDL [digital driver’s licence] is not an end-to-end digital product … a copy solution is a paper sandwich, and therefore a short-term solution,” Dominello said, according to iTnews. “We have bold ambitions for digital service delivery in NSW – and using paper in the chain won’t cut it – so we are going back to the drawing board.”

Service NSW is now reportedly working on a validation solution along with banks, which Dominello hopes to launch this year.

The mobile driver’s license has been downloaded by 1.7 million people, or roughly 31 percent of those eligible since launching a year ago, though Service NSW had predicted it would be taken up by 750,000 people in its first 12 months.

Australia plans digital visa

Also in Australia, the federal government has decided to develop a digital visa to replace the paper Incoming Passenger Card which international travelers to the country must submit, according to a separate iTnews article.

A document for prospective contractors, including biometrics enrollment and verification providers, on the permissions capabilities the government will require has been published by the Department of Home Affairs, as the government attempts to move on from an abandoned plan to outsource its visa processing platform for one billion dollars. The government already spent $92 million on that plan before the change in direction.

The proposed Digital Passenger Declaration will include biometrics to anchor the individual’s identity to the relevant data needed for processing each step from planning to travel through arrival in Australia. Risk profiling, targeted interventions, automation and information sharing are also expected to be among the new system’s key features.

The digital travel credential would also have use for “similar permission-based services,” the document says, and would be publicly funded and operated, a reversal from the previously-proposed system.

The permissions capability would interact with government services like myGovID where appropriate, according to the tender information document.

The government plans to award a tender for the platform’s base functionality later this month, and launch a pair of limited use cases by October 2021.

iTnews also reports that a little less than $75 million was set aside for the program in the 2020-2021 budget.

In addition to the usual uses for the travel credential, Australia’s new system is intended to help public health authorities verify travellers’ COVID-19 vaccination information.

Belarus releasing biometric ID cards to support digital services

A biometric ID card will replace Belarus’ legacy passports as new biometric passports are brought in, with the new cards enabling digital access to a range of government and business services, BelTA reports.

Passports with embedded biometric data will still be available for Belarussians to allow them to travel internationally.

A national service and transaction system is expected to be completed by November 30 of this year, integrated with roughly 30 state-run information systems. In testing the ID card has been used to subscribe to internet service, Belarusian First Deputy Communications and Informatization Minister Pavel Tkach tells BelTA.

Five administrative functions and five digital services are expected to be available through a web portal within six months of the digital ID card’s launch. Eventually, the system is expected to be used to make payments, through a government project beginning next year and scheduled for completion in 2025. Various government services and the country’s National Bank have already prepared documentation for the payment service’s development.

The chips embedded in the ID cards will include a cryptographic authentication token and a program to generate a digital signature, as well as biographic data.

RUP Cyrptotech is expected to produce 800 test ID cards soon. The full transition is expected to take up to ten years, by which time the system could include mobile digital travel credentials.

Nigeria considers removing ID card expiry

The national identity card of Nigeria may soon be permanently valid, as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Dr. Isa Pantami said during a visit to the headquarters of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) that the federal government is considering eliminating their expiry dates, according to This Day.

Dr. Pantami also acknowledged that NIMC’s funding is insufficient for the expectations placed on it. He committed to bringing NIMC Director-General Aliyu Aziz’ request for increased salaries within the agency to the Minister of Budget and National Planning.

“It doesn’t make sense for our digital ID card to have expiry date on it, because it’s for only the bank component of it for cashing money,” This Day quotes Dr. Pantami as saying.

Canadian province plans digital ID

The government of Ontario, Canada has released an ‘action plan’ to make government services more accessible, convenient and reliable, which includes the development of a digital identity based on digital wallet technology

Industry consultations will be launched in 2021 with the aim of launching the new system for online or in-person identity verification by the end of next year.

Examples provided of the services it could enable include online check-ins for doctor’s appointments, registration of licenses or permits online by small businesses, and onboarding people for their first bank accounts through the online channel.

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