Australia's digital identity bill tops $200m

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Australia's digital identity bill tops $200m

DTA reveals Govpass cost since 2015 Turnbull directive.

Australia’s Govpass digital identity project has cost the federal government more than $200 million since the Digital Transformation Agency was tasked with the work almost five years ago.

The agency revealed the price tag in answers to questions on notice from recent budget estimates, with total approved investment now sitting at $204.3 million since 2015.

This includes the recent $5.9 million funding injection in the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, released on Monday, for the DTA to continue the project until at least July 2020.

“The total approved investment in digital identity from its commencement in financial year 2015-16 to the end of financial year 2019-20 is $204.3 million,” the agency said.

But iTnews analysis of budget papers over the past five years puts the government’s total investment in the program at $244 million – almost $40 million higher than the DTA's figure.

This takes into account funding for a number of other agencies, including the Australian Taxation Office and Services Australia which play crucial roles operating the underlying IT infrastructure.

It also includes work on not only the digital identity solution, but the trusted digital identity framework (TDIF), which in the absence of dedicated legislation, is used to govern the scheme.

A DTA has spokesperson has since told iTnews that actual spend on the project is $33.3 million lower than what budget papers state. This puts the total spend over the period at $210.2 million.

At least $30 million has been siphoned off to the ATO and Services Australia to develop the two major IT platforms behind the solution: the myGovID digital identity credential and the exchange.

The identity exchange, which is operated by Services Australia, allows an individual to verify their identity without revealing personal information to a service provider using a “double blind”.

The exchange currently works with only the ATO's myGovID credential, though it is expected to eventually work with a range of other accredited credentials offered by identity service providers.

This includes Australia Post's Digital iD service and in the future, the country's banks and other regulated private sector entities to ensure the federated identity model is a whole-of-economy solution.

Identity was one of the first projects the DTA embarked on after its predecessor, the Digital Transformation Office, was established by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2015.

While the initial years were dominated by the development of the TDIF, the ATO began testing an early version of the identity solution in late 2017.

Over the last year, the DTA has been piloting the myGovID credential across a series of pilots that began with the ATO’s online tax file number application service in November 2018.

myGovID, which progressed to public beta in June, can now be used to access a range of ATO services, including its business portal, access manager system and online services for agents tax portal.

The credential can also be used to access the unique student identifier organisation portal and Defence’s employer support payment scheme, with a variety of health services on the cards for early next year.

The DTA will also use a portion of the $73 million allocated to the digital identity project in 2019-20 to replace the authentication system used by the myGov online services portal with myGovID.

myGovID was recently updated to access the Australian birth certificate as an acceptable form of identity.

Prior to this, only a combination of a Medicare card, passport or driver’s licence was accepted in order to create a digital identity.

Update 3:20pm: A DTA spokesperson told iTnews actual spend between 2015-16 and 2019-20 was $210.2 million, with expenditure $33.3 million lower than what budget papers state between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

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