Australia is inching closer to a national digital identity system. The federal government has already invested $450 million to develop a digital ID, though it has yet to roll it out at scale because the country has not yet passed legislation to extend those IDs to the states and the private sector.
However, there does seem to be some movement on that particular subject. The country’s federal Digital and Data Minister recently met with six of his state-level counterparts to discuss the next steps forward, and all of the parties agreed to “actively explore” the potential for a country-wide program. They also committed to engaging in better information sharing and reporting practices through their National Data Sharing Work Program.
The end goal is to provide Australian citizens with a trusted, federated ID that could be used for proof of identity when dealing with the government, or when doing business with private establishments. The proposed legislation would presumably come with data privacy protections, and create a regulatory framework to prevent abuses of the system. Having said that, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has criticized the Digital Transformation Agency on that front, suggesting that the draft version of the Agency’s Trusted Digital Identity Bill needs to be more specific on the subject of consent. The bill has not yet been presented for a vote at the parliamentary level.
Coming out of the meeting, the Ministers expressed the hope that Australia would have a fully functioning national ID solution (and a fully functioning digital economy) by 2030, with interoperable IDs that are recognized throughout the country. The National Data Sharing Work Program, on the other hand, is intended to improve the country’s response to emergencies like natural disasters, and to make key priorities like roads and waste management more efficient.