Work on Australia-wide electronic birth certificate begins

Spearheaded by the NSW government, work on an electronic birth certificate has kicked off in Australia.

The New South Wales government is working on the development of a national digital birth certificate.

NSW Minister for Digital and Customer Service Victor Dominello said the initiative is currently in the research phase and is on track to deliver a proof of concept in the second half of 2021.

"Having a child is an exciting and busy time for parents. We want to use technology to make life easier for families, so they can spend more time with their newborn and less time dealing with government," Dominello said.

The research includes an online survey, covering questions such as why a birth certificate was recently requested by an individual, be it for confirming identity through the country-wide Medicare or Centrelink schemes, for a passport application or renewal, or as a proof of identity document for other federal government agencies, such as the Australian Taxation Office, or a bank, as some of many examples.

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It also asks the level of digital competency of respondents and what they use their mobile phone and desktop computers for, as well as if the individual has confidence in a nation-wide, securely stored credential system.

"A digital version of your birth certificate would give you easy access to this important identity document, anywhere, anytime, in a secure way. It removes issues of where to safely keep your paper copy. It would be widely accepted by government, businesses, schools, and sporting organisations, making it easier to register and apply for things you need," the government explains.

NSW has been leading the country for a few years on digital initiatives through Service NSW, going live, for example, with a Digital Driver's Licence in October 2019. Other states have since followed.

As the electronic birth certificate initiative is a county-wide one, the NSW government is looking into how to incorporate it with the federal government's myGov. myGov is an online service portal that has been touted as a secure way to access services online with one login and one password.

The Australian government has also been developing the myGovID, which is essentially a digital identity credential handled by the ATO. It's like the 100 point ID check but on a smart device, and it allows citizens to have their identity verified so they can access government services using that verified identity, rather than being verified continually by each Commonwealth entity.

The state government is touting the birth certificate initiative as opening the doors to schooling, health, and other vital government services, in addition to making the process of applying for a driver's licence and getting a bank account easier.

While the specifics of the certificate are yet to be determined, Dominello said any digital solution would be opt-in only and will adhere to the highest privacy, trust, and security standards.

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NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said key priorities for the national project team will be privacy and ensuring any potential solution is accessible to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

"This would be a world-first. Nowhere else in the world provides a holistic digital solution to identity establishment, verification, authentication and management. We're excited by the prospect of filling this gap," Speakman said.

"We are carefully co-designing this proposal with the community to help prevent identity theft and crime," he added.

NSW welcomed 88,577 babies in 2020, down from 93,078 in 2019.

"Having a baby is an exciting and busy time for families, and over the last few years we've made it easier and faster for parents to register a birth and get their child's birth certificate, thanks to the online birth registration system," Dominello added.

Parents have 60 days to register their newborn, which can now be done online.

Consultation on the digital birth certificate is open until 23 May 2021.

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