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NSW, SA governments progress deals with Commonwealth on digital and data

The South Australian government is sold on the benefits of digital identity credentials and will either start accepting the federal government’s myGovID at some point in the future, or build its own similar version.

The new Australian Digital Council’s second meeting has born fruit with the Marshall government agreeing to work together with the Commonwealth on more convenient digital public services. The Commonwealth has agreed to share all of the Digital Transformation Agency’s research and development work on myGovID through a new memorandum of understanding.

Marshall and the federal Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan (pictured) made the deal “on the sidelines” of today’s Council meeting between ministers responsible for digital services in each jurisdiction.

Keenan said it was “a big step forward towards delivering a nationally consistent and fully integrated identity system” and that Marshall’s government would get access to the DTA’s considerable work to accelerate its own digital identity program.

Whichever way their state government decides to go, South Australians “will eventually be able to choose which system they want to use, as both will work seamlessly with Commonwealth and State services” according to the joint statement. The myGovID sytem is currently being used by a small number of Australians in pilot programs.

Marshall said his state budget would save “tens of millions in development costs” through the deal and the SA government be able to start accepting digital identity verification sooner, reducing the need for paper-based or in-person transactions.

“The deal we have signed with the Commonwealth today will ensure better services can be delivered sooner, while also ensuring the privacy and security of South Australians remains protected at all times,” he said.

The communique from the meeting records that after seeing a presentation about myGovID, “All ministers noted the benefit for the public if this service could also be re-used for State and Territory services, and agreed to explore further collaboration on this initiative.”

Pilot for cross-jurisdiction data sharing

Progressing discussions from the Council’s first meeting, Keenan and Marshall also struck a deal with the New South Wales representative, Victor Dominello, “to investigate ways to improve data sharing” between governments. According to the statement from Keenan and Marshall:

“A pilot program will be progressed, enabling a cross-jurisdictional data asset to be built that will help improve service delivery for people with a disability. The pilot will initially integrate data held by the Commonwealth, South Australian and New South Wales governments, with the option left open for other governments to opt in as the project develops.

“Building and maintaining public trust around digital transformation was also noted as a key area of work where further collaboration was necessary.”

Agencies trying to provide national statistical information like the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have to work with all the different governments to combine data into their reports. The digital council agreed AIHW was “well positioned to deliver” newer combined datasets related to people with disability, and ministers also “noted the importance of working very closely with the Disability Reform Council and the COAG Health Council” on the project.

Other ministers only agreed in principle to improve cross-jurisdictional data sharing but other specific projects are being considered; the Western Australian minister Chris Tallentire would like to link data on birth defects with data on drugs prescribed to pregnant women, for example.

A “senior officials group” has also been established to support the council and coordinate delivery of its initiatives.

Other topics at the meeting included “streamlining” the process of interacting with state and federal agencies for citizens around life changes like having a baby, starting a business or the death of a family member. The council also discussed the responsibility of governments to work towards a “sustainable digital future” and provide for safety and security, fairness, equity, digital inclusion and transparency.

Queensland feisty about regulation, consultation

Public bickering between the federal and Queensland digital technology ministers book-ended Friday’s meeting of the Australian Digital Council.

Mick de Brenni, Queensland’s Minister for Digital Technology, wrote to Keenan ahead of the meeting to warn against using “Trojan Horse tactics” to water down existing regulations under the guise of business simplification.

“Queensland sets very high standards when it comes to regulation, and any alignment between states and the federal government should meet these standards, not fall below them,” de Brenni said in a statement on Friday, specifically citing public safety and environmental protections.

The minister also complained that the ADC membership was not consulted ahead of the release of the Commonwealth’s Digital Transformation Strategy last month. Keenan denied, suggesting instead that Queensland officials rebuffed offers to engage on the strategy.

“I have politely advised Minister de Brenni to speak to his bureaucrats who were given several opportunities to engage on the strategy during its production,” Keenan said in a statement late on Friday. “Those offers were never taken up.”

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.