Govts agree to unite on digital ID, data

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Govts agree to unite on digital ID, data

New ministerial council born.

Federal, state and territory governments will convene at the first ever sitting of the Australian Digital Council to commit to crucial new cross-jurisdiction agreements around digital services and data.

Ministers from all nine Australian governments will converge on Sydney today for the first of what will become a biannual inter-jurisdictional meeting designed to improving collaboration.

Chaired by the Federal Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan, the Council is expected to agree to focus on accelerating the development of digital services and improving data sharing across borders by working together.

Keenan has been working to get the COAG-style meeting off the ground for several months, as means to bring governments together to improve collaboration and coordination on digital services - but also to drive down the cost of delivering those services.

“The digital revolution the world is currently undergoing presents governments with enormous opportunities to significantly improve the services we deliver, ensuring they’re fit for purpose, simple, convenient and cost effective,” he said.

“Until now though, jurisdictions have been going it alone on digital projects, or keeping their data under lock and key.”

“By committing to a strong agenda of collaboration and cooperation, we can learn from each other’s experiences and pool our resources to develop systems that can be rolled-out across the country, avoiding costly duplication and accelerating the benefits for citizens and business.”

One future area for collaboration between governments could be with digital driver’s licences, which a number of states are currently in the process of developing.

NSW, for instance, is preparing the first metro trial of its fully electronic digital drivers licences for November, which uses a number of security technologies like blockchain to protect data.

The hope is that by sharing expertise and resources, all government players will be able to fast track their individual projects, while delivering a more consistent experience for citizens and reduce development costs.

The Council will also agree to progress a “major data-sharing initiative” that will provide improved insights on children who spend time in out-of-home care.

This is expected to have federal government data relating to job seeker payments overlaid with state and territory government level data to better shape policy and service delivery. 

Similar research will also be undertaken to understand the barriers that stop disabled people from accessing government services.

The data sharing will be made possible by the federal government’s sweeping new laws that propose making far more public data available for sharing and release known as the Data Sharing and Release Act.

States and territories will be offered the chance to opt-in to that proposed system or use it as the basis for their own “complementary legislation” to make future collaboration “easier”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who will open the first sitting of the Digital Council, said the meeting was important to bring the federation together to drive results in crucial areas of digital transformation and data.

“It’s exciting to see our Federation in action with the Commonwealth, states and territories all agreeing to put our political differences aside and work together to improve the lives of those that we represent,” he said.

“Through greater collaboration, we can simplify services, cut red tape and reduce the compliance burden on small and medium sized businesses when interacting with governments.”

Govpass offered to states, territories

As part of its attempts to reduce duplication, the government will offer its soon-to-be piloted digital identity platform for use by state and territory governments.

Jurisdictions will be able to "adopt" the Govpass platform - and adjoining myGovID digital credential - if they so choose, in a throwback to then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s offer in early 2015 for states and territories to use myGov for free.

However, they will also have the option to “have their own versions [of the digital identity system] accredited for use with federal agencies”, which is expected to involve them becoming an accredited identity provider. 

The Digital Transformation Agency is preparing to begin a year-long Govpass digital identity pilot, starting with the ATO’s new online tax file number application service next month.

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