The inner workings of Australia's digital birth certificate explained

NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriage Registrar Amanda Ianna explains what has been involved so far in developing an Australia-wide electronic birth certificate.

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Image: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

In undertaking the research phase for developing Australia's electronic birth certificate, NSW Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriage has been talking to a long list of stakeholders.

In addition to Births, Deaths, and Marriage staff across the country as well as in NSW, there have been encounters with Service NSW, internal working groups across legislation, policies, and security within NSW government, Services Australia, the Digital Transformation Agency, Transport of NSW, Australian Federal Police, Australian Passport Office, Department of Education, Australia's four big banks, Tennis NSW, Rugby NSW, Office of Sport, employment screening firms such as Equifax and Fit for Work, and childcare centres.

"It was really important for us to understand all the different stakeholder groups that we need to work with," NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriage Registrar Amanda Ianna said, speaking at the 2021 digital.NSW event.

But it was not just government agencies and businesses the agency spoke to. It also carried out an online survey asking citizens for their input, which received a 48% engagement rate, compared to the standard 30%.

"We know from this response rate that citizens are very interested in this product and what we'll be able to do in the future," Ianna said.

"80% of those customers said they would use a digital birth certificate it was if it was available and universally accepted."

Through these interviews and survey, Ianna said the agency uncovered four key features customers across public and private sector expect to be included in the digital birth certificate: Security and privacy, such as having only minimal information visible on screens; it can be used for verification and traceability; it needs to contain a source of truth when a copy of it is shared; and it must contain the most up-to-date information on a person.

Other considerations for the design of the digital certificate would be how would it look for different scenarios.

"Is it a citing purpose I need [it for]? Is it a send and copy to the organisation that it needs to go to? Do you download a copy onto your phone? Or is it filling out a web form using an API remotely … so it's about testing and evolving," Ianna said.

She added it will also need to be integrated into state government-based apps such as the Service NSW app, Service Vic app, or the Service WA app, as well as myGovID, Apple Wallet, and Android Wallet.

"Customers need to have the ability to choose where they want to be," Ianna said.

A tender has now been issued in search of a vendor to help build the electronic birth certificate. For Ianna, she envisions it would mirror the look of the paper-based birth certificate, but also be "a practical, user-friendly, safe, and secure digital certificate that citizens could access anytime, anywhere, and run completely complementary to our paper birth certificates in Australia".

"The digital birth certificate will be more than just the commencement of identity. It'll help to support your story," she said.

"If you look at the graphics on it, the graphics will actually match the birth certificate paper that we use in this whole country. Every state and territory use the same birth certificate paper, and we will mirror what we build to look exactly the same."

In April, NSW Minister for Digital and Customer Service Victor Dominello had said a proof of concept was to be delivered in the second half of 2021.

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