$3.5m for DTA’s digital ID charge model

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

A number of consultants will share in more than $3.5 million across just six months to develop a charging model for the federal government’s digital identity scheme, which will soon be rolled out to state governments and the private sector.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), which is leading the digital identity program, has signed a number of contracts for work on developing a charging framework to fund the program, covering the first six months of 2021.

The digital identity scheme is the federal government’s effort to provide identity verification across a range of government and private sector services through a federated model.

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It’s set to be a significant year for the digital ID program, with the scheme receiving a $250 million boost in the October budget, and the DTA readying to expand it to state and territory governments and private sector companies. Draft legislation facilitating this expansion is now out for consultation.

The digital identity program has now been running for more than five years, with more than $450 million either spent or allocated on it so far. It is split into four intersecting elements: the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, the digital identity providers, services utilising these providers and the exchange gateway.

Along with the DTA, a number of departments are involved with the program, including the ATO, which developed the government’s own digital identity services, myGovID.

The government revealed plans last year to charge companies and state governments to become part of the scheme and offer their own digital identity services, with the DTA listing a number of opportunities on its Digital Marketplace.

The bulk of this work will now be completed in the first half of this year, with a number of large consultancy firms to develop a framework to be used by the federal government.

Nearly $3.7 million will be spent on these consultants across the first six months of 2021 for this work, which has been split up into a number of “packages”.

Canberra-based professional services firm Synergy Group has scored the bulk of the work, scoring $2.4 million over two of the work packages, while multinational KPMG has landed $250,000, consultancy firm NTT Australia Digital will get $800,000 and Liquid Experiences has landed a $150,000 contract.

While the contracts are listed publicly as simply for “government digital services charging framework”, a spokesperson for the DTA confirmed they relate to the digital identity scheme.

“The work relates to the development of a charging framework for the federated digital identity system,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.

“The charging framework will support the ongoing requirements for the program as it is expanded to additional identity and service providers and ensure it is appropriately funded to deliver a whole-of-economy solution to Australians.”

Synergy Group will work on the first and third work package simultaneously, with both contracts running from 17 December last year to 30 June 2021. The first work package is worth $1.1 million, while the third package will cost $1.4 million over the same time period, with the consultancy to be paid $2.5 million in the first six months of the year.

Consultancy giant KPMG will be covering the second work package under a contract worth $259,000, also running from 17 December to 30 June.

NTT Australia Digital has also been brought in to develop a business case for the program at the same time as the work packages are being completed, with the $818,000 contract running from 4 January to 30 June.

Queensland-based digital experience agency Liquid Experience will receive $158,400 for one months’ work on a customer experience framework, to be completed by mid-February.

In November last year the federal government unveiled draft legislation establishing a permanent Oversight Authority to govern the digital identity program, make the current privacy restrictions law and facilitating the use of biometrics technology.

This authority will also be responsible for determining how the charging model will work. The government has made it clear that users will not be charged to use a digital identity under the scheme.

The scheme was allocated $250 million in the last federal budget, more than doubling the total amount spent on it across its five years of existence.

The extra funding will go towards integrating myGovID with myGov, incorporating facial recognition technology and opening it up to state governments and the private sector.

Later last year security researchers warned Australians not to use myGovID until a flaw in its design was fixed, something the government made it clear they were not willing to do.

The researchers said it would be easy for users to be tricked into handing over access to their accounts and control of the linked government services due to the service’s “counter-intuitive” design.

The ATO at the time said this was no different to a typical phishing scam, and that more public awareness is needed rather than any changes to the system’s design.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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