Australia's digital identity platform moves into final beta

The Digital Transformation Agency says the cloud-based identity solution is moving into beta phase with the next step to take it live.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has revealed its digital identification platform is moving into beta phase, with CEO Gavin Slater telling Senate Estimates on Tuesday morning the next stage will allow individuals to create an online form of ID.

Pointing to last week's launch of the Trusted Digital Identity Framework that sets out the rules and standards for a nationally consistent approach to digital ID, Slater said the framework sits alongside the cloud-based platform the DTA is using for prototyping the digital identification play.

"We are now moving to the beta version on the platform," Slater said. "The intention of the next phase is to take it live and this will allow people to set up a digital identity online and apply for a tax file number."

The Trusted Digital Identity Framework is expected to sit alongside the federal government's Govpass digital platform.

The DTA outlined the process for applying for a Govpass in October, with the system expected to match a user's photograph, as well as Medicare, driver's licence, and birth certificate details, with information already held by various government entities.

Govpass is expected to make the process of proving who an individual is to government "simple, safe, and secure" online, with former Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor previously touting the platform as a faster, simpler way to move between online services provided by the Australian government.

However, also facing the probe on Tuesday was DTA CDO Peter Alexander, who revealed that the Govpass solution is currently non-existent.

"Govpass doesn't exist -- we're building pilots -- it's under government consideration," Alexander said. "The framework is out ... it sets a bunch of policies -- it doesn't set the technical solution for how this works. That will be developed by each of the Govpass identity providers."

Facing the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue in November, Alexander revealed that there are three providers that will be charged with the responsibility of Govpass in the first instance: The Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Human Services, and Australia Post.

"They hold a lot of identity data already," Alexander said. "It could easily be extended to jurisdictional providers and commercial providers, who are talking to banks, the Australian payment network, and others who can provide identity."

His remarks followed comments made by the Reserve Bank of Australia, which argued to the committee that Australia's banks are better positioned to be involved with building out Govpass, as online banking is considered a better digital experience than the government's contentious myGov portal.

While face biometrics are being implemented for verifying the applicant is who they claim to be as part of Govpass, Alexander said the DTA is exploring other biometric capabilities.

"It certainly is one that we're looking at, at the moment, because we have a capability there with the face verification service, but we're also looking at voice biometrics, which the tax office use, or other biometrics that people might have -- or other multi-factor identity solutions," he said in response to a question seeking how a visual impaired individual will be able to move through the authentication process.

"Accessibility is core to us and it is a requirement in delivering government services. We will not only comply with that, we will attempt to excel."

Also this week, the DTA, alongside CSIRO's Data61, kicked off its data fellowship program, aimed at giving Australian Public Service (APS) staff an opportunity to gain advanced data skills.

The data fellowship is a three-month, full-time placement that will see selected APS staff develop a solution for a data-related problem or opportunity. The project may include activities like data analysis, forecasting, or API development, the DTA explains.

The fellowship bounces off the work the APS Commission and the DTA are already undertaking to up-skill public servants and transform the culture that has been identified as a blocker in digitally transforming the Australian government.

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