​Australia kicks off myGovID pilot

Applying for a Tax File Number is the first test case under Australia's new digital identity system.

The federal government has kicked off the first trial under its digital identification play, with a small group of Australians able to use their myGovID to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN).

A statement from Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan explains that a myGovID is the digital equivalent of a 100-point ID check that is expected to reduce the need of visiting an office or shopfront to prove who they are when doing business with government.

"When fully operational, myGovID will transform the way Australians interact with government by removing the burden on them to have to come into an office to prove who they are over and over again," Keenan said. "Instead, if they wish to do so, they will be able to complete transactions at any time of the day or night from the comfort of their own homes by using a simple mobile app."

Keenan in June confirmed the first of several pilot programs using a beta version of the myGovID would begin in October, after the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) revealed a month prior it had pencilled in the date for delivery of its first Govpass pilot.

Revealed during Senate Estimates in March, the TFN pilot will enable 100,000 participants to apply online, which Keenan, echoing remarks previously made by the DTA, said will reduce processing time to a day, when it currently can take up to a month.

Australians are able to complete their TFN application online, but this needs to be printed and taken along with identity documents to an Australia Post Office to be finalised. There are 750,000 applications for TFNs each year and Keenan said using myGovID, the entire process will take just a matter of minutes.

"To issue a TFN, the government requires a high degree of certainty that we are dealing with the right person in order to prevent fraud and corruption," Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert added.

"This new system not only meets our high security and service delivery standards, but exceeds them. myGovID will also make the process so much easier for many of those 750,000 people that apply for a TFN each year."

Eight pilot programs will be run over the next nine months with selected users to test the delivery of a range of services.

It is expected services including grants management, business registration, student services, and some Centrelink services, will become available.

The DTA anticipates that around 2.8 million transactions will be moved online as a result of this.

To create a myGovID, users will need to download the myGovID app on a mobile device, before providing some details such as name, date of birth, email, driver's licence, or passport details.

The app will also enable the user to take a photo. The image is then submitted for comparison with an existing photographic identification such as a passport, which is held by the Attorney-General's Department's Facial Verification System (FVS).

The DTA said users will be able to create a myGovID from any device "further down the track".

Unlike the federal government's troubled My Health Record system, the myGovID is entirely opt-in, with the old ways of doing business such as speaking to a person over a counter or on the phone will still be available to everyone.

"That is what digital transformation is all about -- providing greater simplicity and convenience for busy Australians," Keenan added. "And based on the feedback we have had so far, I am confident Australians will embrace it fully when it is released publicly next year."

The Minister spoke at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo on the Gold Coast earlier this week, using his address to offer an example of where a technology-based government initiative has reaped rewards for the public -- the rollout of SmartGates at airports in Australia.

"I always like to use it as an example because when we decided to rollout SmartGates over a decade ago, there was enormous resistance amongst some of the public ... they were very concerned we were using biometric information to identify people and there was all sorts of catastrophic scenarios about what this might mean if we rolled out SmartGates," Keenan said.

"But of course what we've actually done by rolling out these SmartGates is instead of waiting half an hour or 45 minutes to go through the Australian border, you can now do so literally in seconds.

"It's a great example I think of how important it is to keep your nerve when you roll out new technology and we continue to make arguments about why we're doing it and what we hope to achieve from it."

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