Australia’s digital passenger card was yet to be integrated with backend border systems when it was shelved by the federal government, despite initial plans to have this work completed in June.
The digital passenger declaration (DPD) was removed as a requirement for international travellers arriving into Australia last Wednesday as part of changes to the Biosecurity Act 2015.
In making the decision, Home Affairs minister Clare O’Neil conceded that the DPD was not fit for purpose, as demonstrated by the hundreds of scathing reviews from users on the Apple and Google app stores.
The app and web form, which was introduced in time for the reopening of Australia’s borders in February, was used by passengers to declare their Covid-19 vaccination status and travel history.
When the first iteration of the DPD arrived, Home Affairs planned a release at the end of June to integrate the DPD with its backend systems, allowing the paper-based incoming passenger card (IPC) to be replaced.
As with all government IT projects, group head of the technology and major capability group Michael Milford said at the time that the integration, not the DPD app itself, would be the more difficult task.
“There are two more releases: there’s a release tomorrow, and then there’s a release in April and a release at the end of June,” he told budget estimates in February.
“At the end of June, the DPD will be complete and will be integrated with our backend systems.
“The greatest difficulty we have is not in the form; it’s actually the integration with the backend systems that is the issue.”
But an Australian Border Force spokesperson told iTnews this never occurred, with “integration between DPD and Home Affairs back-end systems... not enabled in [the] June release”.
iTnews understands the department has, however, developed the internal integration points necessary to interface with the DPD.
The spokesperson declined to provide any additional reasoning as to why the integration was not completed or if it was one of the reasons behind the government decision to hit pause, but said work is continuing.
“During the hibernation, our focus on digitising the traveller experience at the border continues, including digitisation of the IPC, and system integration,” the spokesperson said.
As reported last week, complex rules required by Home Affairs were found to be a major contributor to the DPD’s useability issues in an internal review.
It is unclear how these rules impacted the DPD, though without integration with backend systems, travellers were required to manually enter information already in the possession of the government.
The spokesperson did not provide a new timeframe for the integration and the re-release of the DPD.