The expansion of the digital ID program is a positive step but accessibility and ease of use will be critical to making it work, says an ID verification specialist.
Budget funds next stage of nationwide digital ID program
The budget put aside $26.9 million in 2023–24 “to sustain and develop the next stage” of the digital ID program but its success will hinge on how well it is accepted by the public, says identity specialist OCR Labs.
The government digital identity system is currently used to access 80 government services and the next stage of the program will expand it to the private sector as well as state and territories.
As part of the funding, $24.7 million goes to the Department of Finance and the Digital Transformation Agency to maintain the current digital ID system and design the policy and legislative foundations to transition to an economy-wide digital ID with an independent regulator.
Draft legislation to develop the program further was created in late 2021 but lapsed when the election was called.
OCR Labs general manager APAC Paul Warren-Tape said the reforms have been left too long already and, following some of the significant data breaches in the past year, having a digital ID system to identity people in a remote sense is now a necessity.
“Off the back of these breaches the Albanese government is now looking at how can prevent the need for people to present ID documents multiple times to multiple businesses and this digital identity bill will get you there,” Mr Warren-Tape continued.
The expansion of the digital ID program will be a positive step in reducing the data footprint of each individual but making the system efficient and accessible will be key to generating strong uptake.
“The system needs to be as seamless as possible so that people with a real ID who are trying to get access to the important products and services they need can get through,” he said.
“The technology might be great but if people don’t use it then they’ll always go back to the easiest kind of port, which is face to face and that tends to be prone to errors, issues and fraud.”
The rollout of the director ID scheme last year drew considerable criticism from the accounting profession with many describing the process of helping their clients to apply as “burdensome and frustrating”.
The difficulties encountered with the director ID process demonstrates the importance of these systems being built with a continual cycle of improvement, said Mr Warren-Tape.
“[We] need to think about what that cycle of improvement means for everyday Australians and tax agents because it they’ve used it once for the director ID sign up and it was a bit slow and clunky they may question if they want to go through that process again. The process needs to be an understanding one,” he said.
“It’s never going to be perfect but the more we use and trust these systems, the more reliable they will become as well.”