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Digital birth certificate program ready to kick off in Australia

NSW pilot seen as potential model for other digital ID rollouts to follow
Digital birth certificate program ready to kick off in Australia

Digital birth certificates are going live in New South Wales, and kids will be the first to use them. The Daily Telegraph reports that more than 18,000 children will be issued a digital record of their birth as part of the pilot program preceding a full-scale rollout. Participation is optional, and parents and guardians can submit applications for free. The move is intended to make it easier for kids to register for sports, access loans and prove their identity.

In 2022, NSW contracted the Canadian consultancy firm Thoughtworks to provide support on the design and deployment of the architecture needed to deliver the certificates. The resulting digital IDs will have the same legal standing as a paper document, and include several familiar security features, such as a hologram, time stamp and identity proofing measures. For privacy and data control, a standalone app for the certificate will offer a preview mode that can serve as proof of identity but withholds non-essential personal information. App accounts will be protected by user PIN, and biometric safeguards such as Android or iOS device fingerprint or facial recognition.

Customer Service and Digital Government Minister Jihad Dib says the digital birth certificate is “a significant milestone in the state’s digital transformation journey and another step towards improved digital identity credentials.”

“It is designed to be a secure, accessible and hassle-free solution which paves the way for a digital future where identity proofing is both protected and empowered,” says Dib. “I look forward to sharing the outcomes of the pilot with other jurisdictions to determine how this exciting project can assist on the journey to improve digital identification.”

A significant driver behind the program is the desire for a permanent birth record that is impervious to physical damage from disasters like wildfires or floods. NSW issues more than 210,000 paper certificates each year, 120,000 of which are re-issues due to loss or damage.

The government of NSW calls the program the world’s first for digital birth certificates, although IBM made a similar claim in Brazil in 2019, and evidence suggests otherwise. Regardless, it is a trailblazer even in Australia, where campaigns to introduce wider digital ID programs on state and federal levels have often been mired in delays and political bickering – but where more rollouts are imminent, nonetheless.

Per the Telegraph, the digital birth certificate pilot will be open to parents of children enrolled or about to enroll in KU, Affinity Education or TAFE NSW Early Childhood Education Centres. The deadline to apply is May 14.

The government’s website says the digital birth certificates will be available for people born in NSW in late-2024.

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