Australian government commences work on digital vaccine passport for international travel

Accenture will be responsible for building out Australia's digital vaccine passport.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

A new Australian digital vaccine passport is officially in the works, with the Australian government announcing it has selected Accenture to build the technology.

The digital vaccine passport, called the Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD), will replace physical incoming passenger cards and the COVID-19 Australian Travel Declaration web forms, the government said.

Functionally, it will link with the QR code vaccination certificate that is set to be introduced later this month and capture essential information up to 72 hours prior to a person boarding a plane.

Australians currently use either a digital or paper certificate to indicate their COVID-19 vaccination status, which can be retrieved through the Express Plus Medicare mobile app or a myGov account. These certificates are filled with various issues, however, with users easily able to forge their records.

"The DPD will support the safe re-opening of Australia's international borders, by providing digitally-verified COVID-19 vaccination details," Minister of Home Affairs Karen Andrews said.

"This will help us to welcome home increasing numbers of Australians, and welcome the tourists, travellers, international students, skilled workers, and overseas friends and family we've all been missing during the pandemic."

See also: How Australia's tech-savvy COVID-19 response is leaving CALD communities behind

Accenture was selected to build the DPD following a competitive tender process that was run by Home Affairs.

The company will work alongside Home Affairs to deliver the initial operating capability of the DPD later in the year.

The DPD will first undergo testing before it is deployed at major Australian airports.

In terms of when the DPD will be rolled out, the federal government has not given a definite timeline.  

Once the DPD is rolled out, the government will also consider other use cases for the technology that the DPD is based on, said Stuart Robert, the Minister responsible for data and digital policy.

The digitisation program could potentially be used for visas, import permits, personnel identity cards, licenses, registrations, and other documents, he said.

The announcement of the new digital system follows the federal government last year shelving its plan to privatise Australia's visa processing system, terminating the contentious request-for-tender process for its proposed Global Digital Platform.

At the same time, government-owned Healthdirect Australia has launched a new portal for finding and booking vaccination appointments.

Both federal and state governments already have their own respective booking portals, but these portals do not display appointments for vaccine clinics that are listed as "phone only" bookings.

The new vaccine clinic finder is meant to show vaccine appointments across every clinic registered with the National COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce, Healthdirect Australia CEO Bettina McMachon said.

"This system is the only one which shows vaccine appointments across every clinic registered with the National COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce -- whether they be general practice, pharmacy, or State/Territory vaccination centres. Offered in multiple languages, it provides the most choice for consumers to find a time and place that suits them to get a vaccine," she said.

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