Digital identity is the “golden digital thread” and is the top priority of the Service NSW, state Digital Government Minister Victor Dominello says.
Addressing the future.nsw conference on Monday, Mr Dominello reiterated his commitment to develop a state digital identity and encouraged attendees to put consumers in control of their digital services.
“[Digital identity] is the number one priority of our office because it is literally that golden digital thread and if we get the protections in place around it, then it will absolutely significantly reduce risks around cyber,” Mr Dominello said.
“What comes with cyber is identity theft, and financial theft and a whole lot of other problems and scourges that we’re fighting every day. Also, if we can put the safeguards and the trust around it then it provides that seamless pathway into health into education so that you got more time…to do things you want to do rather than mucking around with government agencies.”
Mr Dominello said digital first aid certificates would be available in the next few months, digital working with children checks and education credentials by the end of the year, and development on digital birth certificates was ongoing. The government is also seeking to create an e-regulator platform to streamline the regulatory process for business.
Mr Dominello also said the government could not forget older citizens when designing these services, and digital identity must be inclusive.
“We’ve already started that journey so your seniors can download the seniors card, but we really want to make that a golden experience for them by the middle towards the late in the year,” Mr Dominello said.
Also under development is a digital service that can locate disabled parking spots in real-time, with more news expected “in the weeks ahead”, he said.
A digital version of ‘My Personal Health Record’ (or Blue Book) for children will also be integrated into the NSW Health patient app. This may feature a digital health assistant and prompts for important milestones, such as enrolling your child in their first school. Several more pilot projects are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Following his speech, Mr Dominello was on a panel facilitated by NSW Chief Information and Digital Officer Greg Wells and spoke glowingly about the future of digital identity. In particular, Mr Dominello said he wants consumers to have greater control over who gets to see their information over the next five to seven years. This is compared to the current loss of control consumers face when businesses make copies of physical identity documents.
Alongside Mr Dominello was former Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow and NSW Government Executive Director of Digital Identity Lenka Bradovkova. Ms Bradovkova was a last-minute replacement for the Digital Transformation Agency’s Digital Identity head Juleigh Cook.
Mr Santow said that building trust between digital service providers and consumers was pivotal to its success. Quoting former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Mr Santow said “trust is not something you can demand, it’s something that you have to earn”.
“To earn trust there are three key things. The first is you need to talk really openly about why you are using technology for a particular purpose. What are the benefits, particularly for the community in using technology in this particular way?” Mr Santow said.
“Secondly, and this may sound counterintuitive, you’ve got to be open about what the risks are, simply [because] this very, very glowing picture that everything will be absolutely rosy, without acknowledging that there are any risks [is not plausible].
“The third step is to say…what are the things you can do as a consumer as a citizen in order to keep yourself safe in order for you to address these reasons, and if you do those three things, then I think you can build a really firm foundation.”
Mr Santow said digital identity is also particularly important for people seeking asylum as identity documents are often not carried by those fleeing from conflict. He also maintained the need for individuals to have absolute control of who can access their information.
“Digital identity is absolutely fundamental to being able to vindicate one of the most basic human rights there is. But there needs to be proper protections…You need to be able to control your own identity. If that is something that anyone can access, including those who want to persecute you, then of course that is unacceptable,” Mr Santow said.
“It’s not something that we can kind of move forward in this area in a way that is completely cavalier, we need to have proper protections in terms of cybersecurity, and more broadly to make sure that people can control who sees who they are.”
Ms Bradovkova highlighted the huge time-saving impact that digitising services and transactions would present.
“As any human that’s on an international scale, the currency is time, you only have a limited time in your life and you don’t want to spend it in a line waiting to be serviced. For me the most exciting thing is not to have to wait in a line and get the services I need in a secure way from wherever I would and to be able to use my time in a way that I’d prefer,” she said.
While the federal Digital Transformation Agency has been slow in developing its digital identity scheme, the NSW government has been undertaking a number of developments. This includes the roll out of several digital licenses for drivers, fishing, gaming, and alcohol sales, and the establishment of a digital identity advisory council in July 2021.
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