Smart card-based identity management for all Australian government staff has taken another step towards reality with the release of key framework documents.
Special minister of state Gary Nairn announced parts of the framework's publication online, including guidelines on identity and police checks, data and privacy management. The government has said it will implement the Identity Management for Australian Government Employees Framework (IMAGE) by 2008.
"The purpose of IMAGE is to standardise identity management policies and practices for employees and contractors in the public sector and in the longer term ensure identity management can be conducted seamlessly across agency boundaries," Nairn told a smartcard conference in Sydney.
"It's envisaged that a smart card will be a key element of IMAGE, providing both evidence of identity and access control."
The government expects cost savings and efficiency gains from the system, improved security and easier facilitation of staff that move between agencies.
Nairn also released framework documents on e-authentication for individuals, and smart cards.
The smart card framework would be important to defining the IMAGE card for government staff, according to Nairn.
A smartcard overview and principals document, a smartcard handbook, and a standards and model specification for public comment, were released.
Nairn said interoperability was one of the biggest issues in the smartcard framework, not just in ensuring value-for-money, but also to quell concerns.
"Interoperability between agencies shouldn't be seen as being at the expense of citizens' privacy, rather it should be seen as strengthening it. Certainly they're far more secure than current cardboard Centrelink concession cards for instance."
The standards and model specifications will be of particular interest to the many vendors expected to tender for the Department of Human Services' access card.
"It is important to note that AGIMO began work on the Smartcard Framework prior to the Government decision on the Health and Social Services Access Card. The Government decision on the permitted use, scope and limitations of the Access card bound its use," Nairn said in a statement.
An overview and principals section was also published for the other major framework release, the Australian Government e-Authentication Framework (AGAF) for Individuals.
AGAF will guide government online services where individuals' identities need to be verified.