Australia Post will need to significantly lift its digital capabilities to keep its role processing passport applications, as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade pits the corporation against private sector rivals for the work.
At present, Australia Post acts as the sole agent of DFAT when it comes to lodging passport applications, sitting interviews, and paying passport fees outside of a passport office.
But the deal expires on 30 June 2017, and DFAT is now in the market for an enhanced service, boosted by a range of new online capabilities.
DFAT wants applications conducted predominantly online, with passport photos electronically checked for compliance with APO criteria, and signatures captured via a digital touchpad.
The passport office is looking to deliver a central online booking system for passport interviews, web-based support for applicants, and online fee payment capabilities.
It also wants the new service to take some of the pressure off human passport interviewers through an automated workflow system, which would guide officers through the process of asking the right questions and collecting the right information.
“It will remove the need for interview officers to determine policy,” according to DFAT's tender documents, and allow officers to focus on making sure the process is completed successfully the first time.
AusPost is currently is trying to rescue its business model from the threat of rapidly declining letter volumes and cannot afford to lose any more of its revenue base.
The government-owned business has already embarked on a concerted lobbying campaign to capture a slice of the customer-facing services currently delivered by public agencies, teaming up with Data61 to create a test bed to showcase its transactional capabilities.
AusPost insisted it was “uniquely positioned to continue to provide efficient and reliable passport services for the federal government”.
“Consumers trust us with their identity and personal data,” it said, pointing out that any hit to its service base would impact the small business owners that run many of its 4000 outlets.
However, DFAT is weighing up ending the postal corporation’s passport monopoly, raising the possibility of assigning a number of different providers to the job on a region-to-region basis.
DFAT will take pitches from Australia Post and alternative providers until 27 April 2016.