Digital ministers meeting gets cyber focus


All three federal ministers responsible for digital and cybersecurity will take part in the first inter-jurisdictional meeting of digital ministers to occur since the formation of the new Albanese government.

The gathering of the Digital and Data Minister’s Meeting will take place on Friday, with digital identity set to be the hot topic of conversation in the wake of the Optus data breach that netted the personal information of almost 10 million Australians.

It will be the first time that the meeting has been convened since March, with Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher to chair a chorus of digital ministers from the states and territories, including some new faces.

Parliament

But in addition to her state and territory counterparts, she will also be joined by Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil, who doubles as cybersecurity minister, and Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten.

The addition of Minister O’Neil in particular, is expected to see a focus on cybersecurity not previously seen at the meeting, with the federal government increasingly vocal about need for cybersecurity and privacy reform.

New South Wales digital government minister Victor Dominello said the increased focus was “encouraging” after “not much” discussion about cybersecurity at previous meetings, which he has attended since September 2018.

“We talk about trust, we talk about [digital] identity, we talk about service delivery, but cybersecurity sort of sits over here,” he told the 2022 NSW government cyber security showcase in Sydney on Thursday.

“So, that’s why I’m really encouraged by the meeting because it’s the first time cyber is coming into this camp, because how one earth can you build out any digital product without cyber. It’s like driving a car without a seat belt – it shouldn’t be allowed.”

But Minister Dominello also acknowledged that the delineation of ministerial responsibilities in interdependent areas creates “a lot of cooks in the kitchen”, making it harder to drive change in Cabinet.

Despite the new focus on cybersecurity, digital identity, which the government regards as a possible answer to reducing the need for multiple organisations to store identity documents, is still set to dominate the meeting agenda

The federal government has spent the past seven years developing a digital identity system for citizens to interact with federal services and – in future – other state and territory and private sector services.

As much as $600 million has been set aside for the digital identity program since 2015, but it has stalled in recent months due to delays with legislation that would expand the scheme to the private sector and enshrine privacy protections.

In New South Wales, the state government is preparing to pilot its answer to digital identity credentials, which Minister Dominello said will be “truly decentralised” and based on Web3 principles.

“We’re about to do some very closed pilots because we need the legislation in place – we’ve got to wait for the feds to do theirs, but we’ll do ours first next year. Once we get that in place, this changes everything,” he said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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