The Digital Transformation Agency is set to begin work to replace myGov's existing authentication system with the government’s new digital identity system myGovID.
Head of digital identity Jonathon Thorpe told SailPoint’s Navigate conference in Sydney this morning that the two systems would be integrated before the end of this financial year.
[*This story has been updated to reflect new information provided.]
Funding for the long-expected integration was handed to the DTA in this year’s federal budget to simplify how citizens prove their identity and access services more conveniently.
It comes just weeks after the myGovID quietly appeared on Apple's App Store, allowing to the public to try out the digital equivalent of the 100 point ID check for the first time.
The opt-in system, however, currently works with only the Australian Taxation Office’s business portals, as an alternative to the soon-to-be-replaced AUSKey credential.
Thorpe said that integrating the new identity credential with the government services portal would improve the user experience, giving the portal a more banking-like feel.
“We see the integration of digital identity as really important [for the future of myGov] because it is just part of a journey,” he said.
“If you’re trying to participate in the economy, maybe need some help with welfare, what if you could reuse your digital identity in myGov to get the service you need.”
“So we’re integrating these two systems through a series of pilots this year to obviously uplift the credential strength [and] make it more like a banking experience, so you can look at your phone to login or TouchID to login as an example.”
Work to integrate myGovID is one of the first improvements proposed by the DTA for the portal's future.
The DTA has spent much of the last year rethinking the portal to ensure it is centred around the life events of citizens.
Thorpe said further work to improve the portal, to take place over the next 12 months, would see the DTA look to reduce the number of questions asked by government to do things like linking services, which he said “people have trouble with”.
He also said the DTA would soon be testing to see whether citizens preferred the government's identity provider or Australia Post's offering Digital iD, which was recently accredited as a trusted identity provider.
“Soon we’ll be testing some trials with Australia Post to see how citizens and customers actually choose identity providers – whether they like Australia Post and what kind of services they’re trying to access,” he said.
Not a honeypot
Thorpe also used his speech to address criticism of the scheme, including reiterating that myGovID was not a honey-pot, as some pundits have previously suggested.
“Digital identity, particularly in an Australian context isn’t about a national identifier,” he said.
“This is not about giving every Australian a number or a card they walk around with. It’s actually trying to make services easier to access.”
He said one of the central foundations of the scheme, and the Trusted Digital Identity Framework that underpins it, was the exchange, which verifies an individual’s credentials without revealing their identity to service providers
It does this by using the government’s document verification service and face verification service, before discarding the information.
“A key feature of this system is the users actually have control over their identity. It isn’t stored anywhere, and they choose where their identity information is passed through to,” Thorpe said.
“We don’t store the biometrics, and we don’t even store the photo.”
But, even then, he acknowledged the digital identity would be a “hard sell with everyday Australians” until there were services to create value for citizens.
“This is all about making sure services are easy to access. If you don't want to do this, you can go back to the shop front and prove who you are,” Thorpe said.
“But we think that a more convenient experience that you can trust, is probably something that people want to use.”
*Clarification: Based on initial comments made to the conference, an earlier version of this story suggested integration would occur within the 2019 calendar year. iTnews has since been advised that the timeframe cited was meant to refer to this financial year.