The federal government is investing over $90 million to build a federated identity system, to give citizens and firms, control and choice over their digital interactions with government and businesses.
Known as myGovID, the new identity solution means citizens will only need to establish their identity once, and can then re-use it numerous times to access multiple government services.
The aim is to build a robust identity system, among all the main government and non-government players – not dissimilar to the BPay and EFTPOS systems.
Several major pilots are now in planning to test the solution under high volumes. This system of trust includes a digital identity exchange to connect Commonwealth services to users. This will be operated by the Department of Human Services and for privacy and security reasons will be separate to the actual identity providers.
The Australian Taxation Office will manage identity verification on behalf of the federal government. The government is also encouraging other identity providers to be accredited, including Australia Post and the banks.
The federated model will be governed by a Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF). The framework has been developed by the Digital Transformation Agency. It establishes the rules to ensure citizens can deal with government and major businesses, with confidence all players providing the solution comply with security and privacy protocols.
This new identity solution is a game changer. It is expected to fundamentally reset the relationship between government agencies and their citizen users, creating a powerful opportunity to build a new suite of personalised public services for individual citizens.
Digital government is fast becoming reality.
The federal government has committed to make Australia one of the top three digital governments by 2025. The Digital Transformation Agency has contracted with IBM to accelerate the uptake of blockchain, AI and Quantum computing.
Through a specially designed toolkit for government, The Mandarin is examining this critical next phase of transformation and the core capabilities, processes and technologies that public sector CIOs need to focus on, in order to extract the benefits for citizens of the shift to digital government.
New personalised (and useful) services
In this scenario, a family moving say from one state to another, will be able to update all their governmental address records in one place, using a so-called ‘tell us once’ functionality.
For citizens, this will be a huge personal benefit, but the far larger prize is the suite of ‘add-on’ personalised services that will be able to be implemented once a single trusted identity framework is in place. These services could include new travel cards, drivers licences, electoral enrolments, school enrolments and even an appointment with a local health care provider.
Similarly, with the birth of a child, once an identity is verified and authorised, there is an opportunity to seamlessly offer a rich smorgasbord of services from a variety of public institutions, including hospitals, child care centres and schools.
Rather than multiple agencies delivering a series of discrete bespoke services, it is expected these new integrated services will be increasingly managed through one portal, that will over time set the relationship governments have with citizens. Early examples of this are the big service portals, such as Service NSW and the federal service gateway, MyGov.
An end to citizen pain
In this world, citizens will no longer have to navigate the alphabet soup of agencies and morass of complex statutory requirements that come after, say, a close relative passes away. Nor fight their way through the complexity that comes with a dissolution of a marriage, or de facto relationship.
For many citizens, this is exactly what they find most frustrating dealing with government. And the key to solving this problem is a permissions-based unified and trusted identity system that enables services to be brought together into a highly usable citizen solution.
Given governments’ dominance in the health, education, transport and public safety sectors, there is a rich possibility of services that become viable once government agencies across all jurisdictions begin to focus on core citizen and business needs.
At its simplest, this would include event-based notifications – be it a local emergency services update, a health check-up or a weather alert. More sophisticated integrations could include immigration portals that bring together all the governmental requirements into one easy-to-understand user journey.
Health is an area of virtually unlimited potential for new personalised services, either from broad demographics like age and location or more ambitiously around personalised medicine, from genomic and other biomarker data.
Once verified, a citizen potentially can be provided with a service without even having to ask, like a school travel card for newly enrolling students, or a seniors card.
We are already seeing early signs of this new thinking with a pilot in Parramatta to enable small business registrations to happen through one portal, instead of owners having to deal with three tiers of government, across a complex (and often unknown) set of regulatory requirements.
And the recent Ferris Innovation Report has recommended Australia embraces the concept of precision medicine, where personal health data can ensure patients gets the best treatment for their particular body.
Services built around shared standards and data
All this becomes possible once there is a trusted system for identity built around a set of standards, enabling governments to confidently design services from multiple agencies, integrated through shared data environments and powerful algorithms.
This comes as cognitive computing offers powerful ways to parse the large structured and unstructured data, and, when tied with other advanced intelligence applications, opens enormous service design options and capabilities.
Just as private enterprises use the data from their customers to finetune and develop their products and services, government agencies can also use citizen administrative data to improve their services. These customised offerings can be designed around key demographics such as location, gender, age as well as citizens’ actual use of public services.
The design of these services can be highly personalised and, if permission is given, can involve mixing a person’s government and private data. For example, an app that brought together public and private energy data from a citizen’s daily usage could prove highly useful to households seeking to better manage their power usage.
When the various interactions are managed through a single system, this will emerge as a powerful pivot point through which the relationship between citizen and government will be managed and experienced.
This experience includes security, privacy, governance and usability requirements that will need to be strongly supported to maintain trust and compliance in the framework and the door it opens to a world of powerful, integrated and highly intelligent services.
Collaborative, top-level commitment needed
Built around powerful intelligent computers and superfast digital networks, these services will need strong collaboration and strategic leadership from all agencies. Governments has struggled to establish shared service centres across portfolios, let alone join up services across multiple jurisdictions. In NSW it has taken real political and top-level Cabinet commitment to overcome the resistance that comes from agencies fearing the outcome of service unification and integration.
CIOs with their understanding of what is required and what is possible will play a critical role in designing the technical architecture to support this integrated service model, and in advising CEOs of the approaches and strategies for enabling this next generation of services.
Identity management is a key piece of any foundational security strategy and requires a comprehensive approach and the employment of sophisticated controls to ensure outsider and insider risks are consistently managed. IBM’s Identity Governance and Intelligence suite, for example, offers end-to-end protection across the technology stack, providing auditable compliance. Segregation of duties and violations helps ensure risk is well understood and managed.
To date, service transformation has tended to digitise the status quo. But in a world where agencies can trust identity, leaders will have a real opportunity to rethink services that take much of the pain and frustration out of dealing with government, and to fundamentally reset the relationship with citizens and stakeholders.
FREE SEMINAR | The honest bureaucrat: blockchain as the foundation for modern government
Join our panel of international experts as we consider how blockchain could be the foundation of digital government.
Three free seminars specially designed for government officials wanting a concise briefing on this transformative technology, supported by IBM, are being held in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra on 31 July, 1 August and 2 August respectively.