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Governments in Australia and Canada investing in digital ID

Governments in Australia and Canada investing in digital ID

Both the Australian and a Canadian provincial government are amping up development of digital identity systems. The province of Ontario is seeking to build on the launch of a new framework for digital ID and authentication industry standards announced by Canada in September, while Australia has struggled to find a secure solution which protects privacy. Australia will be rolling out the new ID in the first half of this year, and Ontario will be focusing on delivering its program over the next two years.

Ontario seeks to drive province-wide Digital ID

The government of Ontario, Canada has launched an online survey to gather feedback on a government-issued digital ID for public and private-sector services. The aim of gaining public input will be to shape the government’s approach to design, as well as for priorities and concerns to be heard. The surveys are open to both residents of Ontario or SMEs, and will be available until February 26th.

According to estimates of the impact of digital identity on GDP in mature economies by McKinsey Global Institute, Ontario stands to gain US$10 to $31 billion in economic value alone.

The digital ID program will be based on security, privacy and protection, and increase self-sovereignty of individuals over their data, according to the announcement. Ontario’s government hopes to make it the most advanced digital jurisdiction in the world, according to the published action plan, one of more than thirty projects designed to offer better access to online services.

Some uses for the digital ID in the province could include registering a farm vehicle online without travelling to government offices to prove personal identity, checking in to a doctor’s appointment online and securely sharing health information with caregivers and health care providers, or registration for licences, permits or new accounts online by small business owners.

Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Finance and Minister Responsible for Digital and Data Transformation says; “We want to assure people that a digital ID will not only offer simpler and easier access to services, but it will be safe and secure, encrypted and harnessing the latest technology to protect your information and credentials. As we develop this initiative, we want to hear directly from the people to ensure their priorities are reflected in this innovative, digital approach. No one has a monopoly on good ideas and we are prepared to listen.”

Digital Transformation Agency gains funding

The Australian government’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) will gain over AU$3.5 million (around US$2.6 million) for the development of the country’s free digital identity program over the first half of 2021, reports Innovation Aus.

In November 2020, the government revealed a draft legislation which would authorize the permanent Oversight Authority to govern the digital identity program, make the current privacy restrictions law and facilitate the use of biometrics technology.

Several consultancy firms including Synergy Group, KPMG, NTT Australia Digital and Liquid Experiences will be involved in developing a charging framework model for the project, which will be used by the federal government.

The digital ID program features identity verification to support the use of government and private sector services via a federated model. The ID program is divided into four elements; the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, the digital identity providers, services utilizing these providers and the exchange gateway.

The system is being developed in partnership with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which was involved in developing the government’s own biometric digital identity services, myGovID. As part of the program, myGovID will be integrated with myGov, incorporating facial recognition technology, yet myGovID has faced criticism in the past over privacy concerns.

The program has been allocated around US$342 million since it began, and received a further US$190 million in October 2020, in preparation for expansion across the country.

“The charging framework will support the ongoing requirements for the program as it is expanded to additional identity and service providers and ensure it is appropriately funded to deliver a whole-of-economy solution to Australians,” said a DTA spokesperson.

Last year, the government revealed plans to charge companies and state governments to join the ID program, and to offer independent digital identity services, while the DTA listed opportunities on the government digital marketplace.

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