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NSW government to begin digital licence distribution

The NSW government will begin issuing multiple licences digitally, trialling less common licences before introducing driver's licences to its digital wallet in 2018.

The New South Wales government will begin the distribution of digital licences with the Recreational Fishing Licence, the Responsible Service of Alcohol Card, and the Responsible Conduct of Gambling Competency Cards to be made digitally available by mid next year.

Digital licences will be available on an opt-in basis with consumers given the choice between a digital licence, a physical card, or both. NSW Minister for Finance, Services & Property Dominic Perrottet said the platform will work across web and mobile systems, with consumers able to store multiple licences in their digital wallet.

"In an Australian first, our citizens will be able to display, apply for, receive, update, and renew their licences using a secure app on their smartphone, eliminating the need for a physical card," Perrottet said.

"This will allow us to provide real-time information on various licence types and as well push renewal reminders before expiry."

Perrottet said the technology will include licence verification capabilities aimed at reducing the likelihood of fraud or misuse. He said all licence information will have a commercial level of encryption he compared to that of online banking.

"Each year in NSW we issue more than 23 million licences, including 2.8 million plastic cards, covering more than 750 different licence types," Perrottet said. "Currently it's commonplace for our citizens to have multiple government cards in their wallets from driver's licences, fishing licences, or competency cards.

"All these different cards have different applications, renewals, and expiration processes, with many requiring a new photo each time they're renewed -- no wonder so many people dread getting a new licence."

The NSW government hopes to add an additional five licences to the digital wallet by 2017, with the driver's licence, flagged as the most popular licence type, scheduled for digitisation in 2018.

"Digital licences will be a game changer for customers and will require ongoing transformation in the way that government operates," Perrottet said.

"These licences will significantly improve the customer experience. For example, it currently takes three weeks to obtain a recreational fishing permit after you have applied, but with a digital system, this will be available instantly."

Perrottet said the digital licence initiative is the second area where the government is making things better for consumers, highlighting the launch of the Service NSW MyServiceNSW account.

"The MyServiceNSW account will be the single profile for online services and transactions; whether it's updating your driver's licence, paying a fine, administering your toll tags, customers will be able to link their account to multiple NSW government agencies for a range of different transactions," he said.

"We want our citizens to have a similar experience to online banking -- they can log in and all their products and services are available on the one screen."

According to Perrottet, this initiative will eventually eliminate the need for separate accounts for different NSW government agencies.

A beta version of the MyAccount functionality is currently available on the ServiceNSW website, with a fully featured model to be released by March 2016.

Launched in July last year, Service NSW brought together a number of different NSW government services under the one office, including Roads and Maritime; Births, Deaths, and Marriages; and small business support.

In July, the NSW government decided it would be designing its own digital transaction portal through Service NSW while discussions with the federal government were held around joining the myGov portal.

At the time, Perrottet said the move would address one of the frustrations people feel when they have to provide the same details multiple times to different departments.

"Good service means customers should only ever have to 'tell us once'," he said. "This online account will be a cornerstone capability to simplify access to government transactions and act as a platform for additional digital services which will be added over time."

In this year's budget, Service NSW was slated to receive AU$362 million to increase the number of digital interactions between consumers and government, and to roll out a further 27 one-stop shops across the state.

The budget also allocated a large chunk of funding for the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, including AU$64 million over four years toward a cloud solution to consolidate datacentres, and AU$10 million over two years to integrate the OneGov System Platform with Service NSW.

Earlier this month, Martin Hoffman, Secretary of the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, said it is a challenge to get beyond the glitz and the glamour of digital services, in order to get the overall system right, adding that the state government wants to see 70 percent of its services through a digital channel by 2019.

"It goes without saying, obviously, [digital] is how customers want to interact. Success so far with Service NSW does show that it can be done," he said.

"God built the world in seven days, but he didn't have legacy systems to deal with."