Australian government begins rebuild of ID verification system

The Australian government has awarded Oakton an AU$4.8 million, four-year contract to overhaul its troubled document verification service.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

IT services company Oakton is already three months into the build phase for a new document verification system (DVS) for the Attorney-General's Department, in a contract worth AU$4.78 million.

The DVS is a system that was first announced in 2006 by the former Howard government to allow government agencies to check the validity of identity documents being used by people applying for benefits, or services. The system accepts identification such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, driver licences, Medicare cards, passports, and visas.

The launch of the system did not go smoothly, with an audit report into the system in 2010 identifying that agencies had been reluctant to use the system because it was not reliable or convenient compared to other methods. At the time of the audit, it was supposed to be able to handle 1 million transactions per day, but was only completing 10 per day.

Initially, the system was only open to government agencies, but has since been opened up to the private sector for document verification on a fee-for-service basis, as part of the former Labor government's 2012 Budget. The government spent AU$7.5 million to overhaul the system while expecting to generate AU$6.9 million per annum in revenue from the private sector to pay for the system.

Oakton's four-year contract with the Attorney-General's Department was signed off in December, and will see Oakton shift the current DVS from the legacy IBM DB2 platform to a new Microsoft .NET SQL server over six to seven months, while the system will retain the existing IBM WebSphere MQ server client.

Oakton's executive general manager in the Australian Capital Territory, Bob Peebles, told ZDNet that Oakton pitched the Microsoft solution to the department as part of the tender process, and it was the department's decision to choose Microsoft.

Bob Peebles
Image: Oakton

"I think, basically, we've got a certain amount of experience in Microsoft technology, and IBM technology, and we went through a tender process," he said. "I don't know what different solutions were offered, but we offered a Microsoft solution."

The build process commenced several months ago, and including testing, Peebles said it would take six to seven months to get the new system in place, shifting from the government-hosted DVS to one hosted by Oakton. After that, Oakton's role will be to manage the DVS system and host the DVS in its Canberra datacentre.

"There are obviously some tight security requirements around it," he said.

Oakton has built into the contract service level guarantees that are designed to address previous criticism of the slowness of the existing DVS system, Peebles said.

"It's certainly in our contract. There's obviously in our contract certain performance requirements, both in terms of number of transactions and transaction times," he said.

The Attorney-General's Department also has the option of expanding the service in the future.

"There's room to scale up and scale down in terms of transactions. I know the Attorney-General's Department, I can't speak for them, but I know they're very keen to expand the service as much as they can."

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