The Digital Transformation Office (DTO) plans to deliver an alpha digital identity framework on August 29 that will set out initial guidelines around how it plans to design and build a federation hub that will verify the identity of individuals, as well as a credential or login to allow individuals to use their verified identity to access government services.
Speaking at the annual Technology in Government conference earlier this week, DTO head of identity Rachel Dixon explained that the genesis behind delivering a federated digital identity is mainly because the federal government finds it too costly and complicated to deal with people, and is aware that people want to do more with the government online.
"The issue is nobody actually wants a digital identity ... people just want to get stuff done in the context of trying to achieve something," she said.
According to Dixon, the only information that will be exchanged through the hub will be a person's name, date of birth, place of birth, as well as contact details such as email address, physical address, and phone number.
"There is an argument the government should have a bigger service to share that kind of data ... that is not this project. We are not about that kind of data. If we were, it'd be a privacy nightmare," she said.
"We have taken a very deliberately restrictive scope to make this just about identity."
Dixon said in building out a federated identity hub, the DTO will work in streams. The first will focus on individual identities; the second will look into those who have existing accounts within government; and the third stream will deal with relationship and authority.
Dixon added that the DTO has also been working closely with state governments, which, she pointed out, have also been building their own identity platforms.
"Consumers don't really differentiate between different governments ... but to the point of the DTO to making it easier, if you've got your identity already proved to a certain level, then is it really fair to ask you to go through the process all over again for a federal government credential? Isn't there a way to take a couple of hundred of people who have got one of those things and make some federal services available to them?
"Likewise, if you've got a Commonwealth credential, should you be able to use that? If you move from state to state, should you be able to move using your old credentials when you move into a new state?"
Dixon hopes to also see participation from the banks, which are currently regulated by the government to carry out identity checks. Dixon believes participation from the banks may possibly help sustain the uptake of the platform, noting similar projects have been carried out overseas but the number of people using it has been "pretty tragic". She noted, however, bringing on board the banks might not happen until the beta phase of the project when the federation hub is being built.
"Some banks have indicated they see some utilities for their customers in being able to access government services in using their banking details," she said.
The DTO expects to release a public beta version of a federated digital identity by July 2017.
Earlier this week, the furore over the storage for four years of names and addresses to be collected in the upcoming 2016 Census stepped up a gear, with many not happy about the decision and even calling to boycott the census.
However, Australian Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack has assured that Census data has never been breached.
"Whilst there has been breaches ... there's never been a breach of the actual Census data," McCormack said.
"Never been a breach, the ABS assures us that this won't happen into the future with this Census, and governments of all persuasion take that information and assurances on board.
"The ABS has never had a privacy breach with Census data showing, and they have assured me as the minister responsible, they've assured the government, that they have every protocol in place, every process in place to ensure that there isn't a breach this time."
Meanwhile, Shadow Assistant Minister to Bill Shorten for Tasmania and Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing Senator Helen Polley has suggested that one way to avoid people's information from being collected is to replace names with numbers.
"I don't understand the necessity of having to complete the census with your name," Polley said. "People have a right to be concerned; there is no reason why you should have to give your full name.
"You should be able to be identified with a number.
"I join with those people who are raising their concerns with me, because I think this is a step too far."