NSW set to pilot digital birth certificates

The New South Wales government will pilot its digital birth certificate with two cohorts of users from April before expanding the opt-in credential to other citizens within the state and across Australia.

The pilots with Vision Australia and early childhood education centres aim to ensure the credential is “fit for purpose, inclusive and accessible”, outgoing Digital Government minister Victor Dominello said on Monday.

“Birth certificates are one of the key forms of ID for people who are blind or have low vision. Vision Australia clients will test the app and provide feedback on its accessibility and future use cases of the digital birth certificate when the app is fully rolled out,” he said.

“They are also the most common form of ID parents use to enrol their kids into various activities and education programs, including sports, school and day care. By piloting with early childhood education centres, we will be able to hear feedback from staff and parents who test the app.”

NSW Customer Service Minsiter Victor Dominello with the a prototype of a digital birth certificate

The opt-in digital birth certificate, which the state government is leading on behalf of other states and territories, is the result of more than two years of work by the NSW Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages (BDM).

It has been designed to make identity proofing requirements easier and more secure for those born in Australia, offering privacy enhancing features that limit how much information is shared with an organisation based on their identity requirements.

The state government has taken this approach with other digital credentials to date, such as when the digital driver’s licence is used to check into licenced venues. It will also form a central tenet of the NSW state government’s decentralised digital identity program.

When US tech consultancy Thoughtworks won the contract to build out the prototype digital birth certificate in May 2022, it was expected that the credential would launch for NSW residents in late 2022.

But in September, Minister Dominello pushed back the rollout with “certain cohorts” to December 2022, in part to address processing timeframes for replacement birth certificates. The announcement on Monday suggests the project has been further delayed.

At the Digital and Data Ministers Meeting on Friday, ministers from across Australia agreed to ensure that digital licences from one state will be accepted in other state, following a pact between the Commonwealth and NSW governments earlier this month.

Ministers also reportedly agreed to expand the national identity scheme to include credentials, allowing citizens to link credentials such as drivers licences and occupational licences to their digital identity.

Mr Dominello, who had been pushing for such a move, on Saturday said having digital licences “seamlessly recognised across states and territories” decision will “avoid a lot of tech debt in the future”.

An audit of myGov last month warned of “a new series of ‘digital rail gauges’” without a national standard.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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