​Government looking to digital identification for Australian SMEs

Australia's Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation, and Science wants a digital revolution in the way that business and government interact and has turned to Data61 to make it a reality.

The federal government wants to change the way small-to-medium enterprise (SMEs) do business with governments at all levels by introducing a digital identifier for every Australian business.

Speaking at D61+ Live in Melbourne, Australia's Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Craig Laundy said that in order to achieve a digital ID, the government needs to turn to organisations like the CSIRO and its innovation arm, Data61.

Laundy explained on Wednesday the digital identification piece would see the government harness the power of big data and loosen some of the reigns the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) currently has, with information on tax and GST paid by an organisation received automatically by the tax office, negating the need for SMEs to send such information, sometimes on multiple occasions.

Currently, individuals in Australia can interact with 10 government services through its myGov online portal, which sees citizens issued a unique identifier that connects their profiles across the ATO, Centrelink, Australian JobSearch, My Health Record, My Aged Care, Child Support, Department of Veterans' Affairs, National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the Victorian Housing Register Application.

The end-goal is to have all government agencies on myGov, which will result in the individual being known to every government entity via the one ID that is already verified.

Laundy expects this to be replicated in the business world via business.gov.au.

"What we are working hard on delivering is if you are a business, you have a business identifier, and when you come on to business.gov.au you are uniquely identified," he explained. "Why is that important? Because it allows us to have a two-way conversation with you, whereas business.gov.au is currently a generic website ... the minute we solve the identification piece, we can have a chat with you one-on-one."

According to Laundy, the solution for government is obvious, but said that while he's constantly hearing politicians talk about cutting red tape, unfortunately it is a slow process to do so.

"You need regulation, obviously, but what we've missed in government ... we're not just a regulator, we're your business partner," he said.

Depending on the ownership structure of an organisation in Australia, the government takes approximately 40 cents from every dollar earned in tax, but despite making a buck from SMEs, Laundy said the business partner mentality has been missing from government for 116 years.

"There is no doubt that this country is one of the best research and innovation countries in the world, the missing piece has always been collaboration and commercialisation," he said.

"Let's have a digital revolution in the way that business and government interact.

"Why is Adrian [Turner, Data61 CEO] and his team so important to me? Because using platforms, co-defined regulation, leaving them as API interfaces for the public sector to interact with and add value to is the centrepiece to what we are going to attempt to do -- it's not pie in the sky stuff."

Disclosure: Asha McLean travelled to D61+ Live as a guest of Data61.

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