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New South Wales’ government is investing millions in digital identity

States move on digital ID as legal tangles tie up personalization for myGov
New South Wales’ government is investing millions in digital identity

New South Wales’ decentralized digital identity program is getting a cash infusion from the Premier Chris Minns’ government, which has allocated $21.4 million in new funding for digital ID in its latest budget.

InnovationAus reports that the money is expected to land next financial year. The investment follows last year’s passage of significant federal legislation dictating rules around the sharing of sensitive personal data, which has paved the way for expedited digital transformation.

NSW ran a year of tests on the digital identity, photo verification and liveness checking technology that is integrated in the Service NSW app. Its first digital identity verification service, which allows teachers and childcare workers to renew background checks online, launched in December 2023. The government says a trial of a digital first aid certificate is imminent.

Also in the budget is $62.5 million for transitioning to an online licensing and compliance system, and $53.6 million for cybersecurity and fraud prevention in light of what the government calls an extreme risk of digital fraud. That includes $22.7 million for the state’s identity support unit, ID Support NSW. To fund the Digital Identity and Verifiable Credentials (DIVC) program, $15 million will come from the Digital Restart Fund (DRF), which appears to be arriving at its end. The rest will be sourced elsewhere.

New South Wales has been busy on the digital front in 2024. In April, it kicked off a pilot of digital birth certificates, partly to lay the groundwork for a wider digital ID program. In May, it opened a public consultation to help shape its digital inclusion strategy.

Legislation or lack thereof blocking myGov personalization

Personalized services for Australians through myGov are ready to go – but the head of Services Australia says current legislation is blocking necessary information sharing across government.

The agency has been testing the capacity to offer individual users the services they need based on information gleaned from their interactions with connected myGov services such as the Centrelink and Medicare. It hopes to have myGov run “highly targeted campaigns” through Adobe’s Target software. Services Australia chief information and digital officer Charles McHardie compares the possibility to ad campaigns by major footwear brands.

An audit last year found that there is currently no legislative basis for the myGov platform’s collection and retention of individuals’ private data. Wide legislation such as the Privacy Act offers some protections, but they are not designed specifically for myGov. The audit recommended adopting “a new privacy-preserving and decentralized approach to tailoring,” with  “processes and safeguards transparently communicated to users.”

The Australian government has a $67 million contract with Adobe for myGov, although not all of it goes toward the Target product which officials say the law makes impossible to use.

Digital Transformation Agency loses life events file

On a separate digitization file, the government is being called out for shifting responsibility for a “life events” service out of the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). Services Australia is set to take over next month to continue the development of a five-year plan. State reps say the slowdown on reform denotes a lack of commitment to smooth delivery of government services around major life events.

Queensland rights group releases rules for compliant digital ID scheme

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties has published its Digital ID Rules, Digital ID Accreditation Rules and Accreditation Data Standards. The documentation is based on the principle that “the implementation of a digital identity scheme in Australia is a significant step and it is imperative that this is approached in a way that is measured, transparent, comprehensively safeguarded and that the Australian community is fully informed as to all potential consequences of this path” and that benefits that may be derived from a digital identity system “must be couched with clear and enforceable safeguards.”

The group notes that “inherent to the operation of a digital identity scheme in Australia is trust,” and lays out steps that can be taken to ensure data privacy and human rights are preserved in a digital ID rollout.

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