Australia Post delivers on Digital iD™

The wait for a digital identity solution that works across channels and across government and business is over, with the launch of Digital iD™ from Australia Post.

After years of discussion, development and research, Australia Post has released its highly anticipated digital identity verification solution Digital iD™ via a soft launch for consumers, government and businesses and is available now.

The partnership translates to Australia Post assisting the DTA in the development of their identity policy framework.

The new smartphone based “Digital iD™” solution, launched initially with selected Australia Post products, ushers in a new era of convenience, confidence and security. The community, businesses and government agencies are all moving to a ‘digital by default’ footing where proving who-you-are to who-needs-to-know has never been more important.

Digital iD™ is a service designed to let you verify your information once and then easily prove who you are online and in person through the smartphone app. Removing the constant struggle to repeatedly prove your identity and having numerous passwords when accessing products and services.

An “early adopter” release of the smartphone iOS app is available now, with Android to follow shortly and further capability, including face biometrics and the ability to prove your identity in person made available in coming months.

Federal collaboration, national support

If there’s one challenge that’s historically impeded the development and take-up of digital identity solutions, it’s been getting key stakeholders in both government and business to agree on a shared vision and framework for what they should be.

Crucially, the Federal Government in May 2017 officially announced that the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has partnered with Australia Post to integrate Digital iD™ with the Commonwealth’s Digital Identity Framework.

The partnership is pivotal because it provides the opportunity for all jurisdictions, and businesses, to finally create a national interoperable digital identity framework.

At an organisational level, the partnership translates to Australia Post assisting the DTA in the development of their identity policy framework, working toward a proof of concept to incorporate Digital iD™ as one of the Identity Providers (IDP) on the federal GovPass platform.

The opportunity for state and local governments to participate is also now a tangible reality.

How does Digital iD™ work?

A consumer’s first interaction with Digital iD™ is most likely to be as part of a transaction such as opening a savings account or accessing a government service, they will have the ability to save their verified identity for future use if desired, with a SMS link inviting them to download the Digital iD™ app. Enrolment can also be performed directly within the Digital iD™ app, which is free to download.

Importantly, users choose and keep full control of what personal and identity details they share, when and with whom they are transacting with, an essential element in maintaining choice, confidence and trust.

Additional features to follow later in the year include Near Field Communication (NFC) which enables enrolment within the Digital iD™ app, by allowing a user to wave their android smartphone over a NFC chip in a passport to extract passport information and allow Australia Post to perform a biometric comparison to the individual.

With Digital iD™, Australia Post is enabling an online approach for higher levels of assurance. In these instances, organisations usually require an in-person verification. By utilising upcoming video verification and biometric matching technology, Digital iD™ offers a digital equivalent of the in-person verification whilst balancing security and privacy.

Identity theft and fraud — both online and offline — have for decades thrived on systemic difficulties.

Other solutions such as, digital licensing, business verification, authentication and delegation are among many other features Australia Post is building to help make it even easier for customers to do business.

In addition to Digital iD™, if you require ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) solution fit for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance, Australia Post can provide an integrated solution that assists with an organisation’s regulatory obligations.

This solution is a low-friction choice for customers whilst increasing match rates by drawing on Australia Post’s multiple unique address data sources to help increase online conversion rates at the time of application.

Reducing ‘identity friction’

When Australia Post set about developing Digital iD™, it did so in response to a growing need expressed by consumers, businesses and government to find a way to address growing levels of ‘identity friction’ that have become an unnecessary burden and cost in conducting what should be straightforward transactions.

It’s well accepted that online and mobile services offer fast and easy new ways to make purchases, set up customer accounts, obtain services or provide vital information to the government. 

Identity theft and fraud — both online and offline — have for decades thrived on systemic difficulties in executing real-time verification of identity claims, thanks largely to a reliance on physical documentation.

Australia Post’s Digital iD™ creates a facility where organisations receive only the information that they need.

This analogue identity paper chase also meant checks needed to be performed by manually re-entering data or photocopying or scanning everything from printed birth certificates to passports to electricity and phone bills.

The bottom line is that Australians rightly expect their identity to be verified to keep them safe, but they want that process and the personal details it uses to be kept secure, appropriate and confidential – and with good reason.

Who’s asking?

If a consumer is asked for ID to verify their age to enter a venue, it’s understandable they may not be comfortable with the same people verifying their age to hold onto their name, date of birth or residential address.

Understandably, there’s a different view to dealing with trusted healthcare providers or social service agencies where essential services rely on evidence and research based on personal, but often anonymised data.

Many government and personal services routinely require some sensitive personal information to make them work. What Australia Post’s Digital iD™ creates is a facility where organisations receive only the information that they need, verified personal information rather than the consumer sharing more sensitive information than required.

The biggest question so far has been how to bridge the difference of expectation, yet still deliver real utility and trust in the digital age. With Digital iD™ that can now change and for the better.

The evidence on trust is in

The attitudes of Australians towards how their identity is used in the digital age, and for what purposes, has been borne out in comprehensive research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Australia Post on digital identity.

In 2016, Australia Post in conjunction with BCG, systematically surveyed Australian consumers, small businesses and those working in large businesses – and government – on their views surrounding digital identity.

The research also drew together substantial existing data and statistics to create an authoritative estimate of what economic value an accepted digital identity can create.

The results revealed that in a digital age, analogue-era identity verification processes were still routinely being demanded for many processes and transactions which is broadly out of step with changed community and business needs and expectations.

The economic value an accepted digital identity solution could create was estimated at $11 billion a year, a figure that revealed the true financial and opportunity cost of what BCG termed “identity friction” – or the drag effect of the analogue-to-digital mismatch.

More choice, more control

More importantly, Australia Post and BCG’s digital identity white paper identified that consumers and citizens strongly want choice and control over how they use digital identity when applying for products and services.

“They don’t want to share more information than is necessary to complete the job, and they want to control their data and who has access to it,” the research paper stated. “Security, privacy and trust were important to the consumers and business owners Australia Post spoke with.”

The research also revealed, that the move to a digitally powered economy and digital government is not an all-or nothing experience. A proportion of people still want face-to-face interactions for some services, but are prepared and willing to use a trusted partner like Australia Post with the physical national reach to do this conveniently.

Community fabric, social licence

With Australia Post already processing more than 6 million identity checks a year through its Post Office network and digital offerings, the synergies of the sum of the services offered by the 200-year-old trusted communications provider became abundantly clear.

For the first time in Australia’s history, a digital identity solution that people could use by choice, with confidence, ease and on their own terms was within reach.

For government agencies considering accepting Digital iD™ that’s a huge leap forward, because the challenge of convincing people and earning their trust has in large, already been met.

Box seat: physical smarts for a digital economy

In terms of creating a consumer experience of what seamless digital identity feels like, Australia Post is by no means confining Digital iD™ to government or purely electronic transactions.

If you think of Digital iD™ as a secure electronic key that can open doors to services, you can see physical solutions as well as virtual ones.

Given the enormous popularity of online shopping in Australia, Australia Post’s own key products and services will be among the first to be integrated with Digital iD™, including MyPost parcel collect, PO Boxes, mail redirection, pre-paid cards and agency identity services.

This means that millions of everyday Australians will soon have real familiarity with the utility of Digital iD™ in their everyday lives. That’s important because it provides an experiential stepping-stone to the wider benefits it can provide.

Transformation for the greater good

While the launch of Digital iD™ clearly offers huge advantages and opportunities for consumers and government customers, there’s a wider national benefit that can flow from the example of Australia Post’s successful digital transformation.

Like many businesses and government agencies, Australia Post’s established business model has had to deal with the uncertainties that digital disruption has wrought on economies all over the world.

With demand for its letters business in decline, Australia Post went back to the very roots of its role in the community to come-up with a transformation strategy that enabled it to adapt, respond and renew the enterprise to be fit for the future.

The integration of Digital iD™ into both government and everyday consumer services is a tangible example of the change and digital transformation the organisation is undergoing itself.

It also demonstrates the strong commitment to creating the next wave of digital services for Australia that will continue to help people, businesses and governments to connect with each other and the world.

It’s important to recognise that Australia Post is able to share and apply the knowledge and expertise it’s gathered on its own transformation journey with other organisations, whether they’re in government, business or the not-for-profit sector.

But it’s just as important to acknowledge that Australia Post’s commitment to helping other organisations evolve and transform goes well beyond a simple commercial service or transaction.

As a 200 year-old institution that helped build the social and commercial foundations of Australia there’s a far deeper cultural and social understanding of the issues governments and businesses face when transforming, whether it’s empowering older Australians or unlocking hidden potential in employees.

The collective spirit and ability to share and impart what it takes to make transformation a positive experience that enfranchises both organisations and customers alike should be embraced rather than be underestimated.

Digital iD™ shows us is that while we may not be able to prevent change, we can make it for the better.