The federal government’s troubled digital identity project has been handed a further $6 million, as concerns about spiralling costs and delays continue.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook on Monday, with a number of new announcements surrounding the government’s tech and digital transformation efforts.
The report revealed that the Digital Transformation Agency would be given another $5.9 million for its digital identity program, GovPass, on top of the $67 million it provided in the 2019-20 budget.
The government has now thrown $150 million at the project, which aims to create a whole-of-government way of verifying identity across a range of government and private sector services.
The government is pursuing a federated model, with two accredited government-owned identity services – from the ATO and Australia Post – to eventually compete with a range of private sector offerings and state and territory governments.
The project was launched in 2015 but has been plagued with cost blowouts and ongoing delays, with calls within the identity sector for a full-scale review of the scheme and legislated privacy safeguards.
In MYEFO, the Coalition provided little further detail on what the additional $5.9 million would be used for, although there has been a push this year for the private sector to get on board and start developing its own services to be incorporated with GovPass.
The DTA is consulting on opening up the Trusted Digital Identity Framework – a set of standards and rules used to accredit digital identity providers – to the private sector, and will need to introduce legislation to Parliament to do so.
DTA officials recently defended the digital identity project at a Senate Estimates hearing, denying it will be a repeat of the doomed Australia Card and claiming that it will be “privacy enhancing”.
As of October, the ATO’s myGovID digital identity play had been downloaded more than 80,000 times, with 46,000 identities created.
The project has also been criticised for a lack of transparency and public awareness of what is going on.
The head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre Fergus Hanson said the government is bungling what is a hugely significant initiative.
“If it was done properly, then it would be one of the biggest micro-economic reforms we’ve had for a very long time,” Mr Hanson told InnovationAus earlier this year.
“It’s a really useful reform if done really well, but unfortunately we’re doing the opposite.”
A number of industry insiders have also raised concerns with how the government is going about the digital identity project, with a reliance on building new solutions rather than purchasing off-the-shelf technology leading to increased costs and delays.
“This is a growing waste of taxpayers’ dollars, when connecting in private sector solutions can support what agencies want,” one industry insider told InnovationAus.
“It’s taking a lot longer than comparable programs in the private sector. The general feeling is that things aren’t moving quickly enough.
“It’s right up there with programs that are generally described as being out of control. We really have to look at what’s been delivered.”
As part of the MYEFO update, the DTA was also given more than $19 million over two years for the development of the protected utility platform and the implementation of a hosting strategy.
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