Australia’s digital identity program could save government billions of dollars per year

The government of Australia plans to invest billions of dollars in its digital identity program, providing a single digital ID for all citizens by 2025, and officials say that massive investment will pay dividends.

Digital Minister Michael Keenan said Monday that his goal is to have all levels of government transactions conducted online with a digital signature. While current transactions in person cost an average of $17 each, according to The West Australian, moving online cuts the cost considerably, to less than 40 cents each.

Keenan sees the plan saving the government tens of billions of dollars each year, easily recouping the hefty multi-billion-dollar investment the government will place in the system. Australia expects that all citizens will have a “single digital identity” by 2025, making its program one of the most broad reaching and aggressive undertaken by a government.

Sensitive identity data stored with the new system, called myGovID, will be held by the Australian Tax Office, which is already the largest holder of personally identifiable information.

In another security measure, the system will be double-blind, meaning service providers will not see ID information, while identity providers will not know what services a user accesses.

The first use of myGovID will be for tax filings later this year. Doing so will take a process that usually takes a month to complete, and reduce that time to a matter of minutes.

OWI Insight: Change — particularly from governments — frequently comes slowly, but when there is a financial incentive to make a switch, it can help accelerate the process. Australia has become a worldwide leader in pushing for digital identities and trusted frameworks, and the huge dollar amounts the government hopes to save could prove to be a key driver for myGovID. If those financial incentives come to bear, other nations may be motivated to start their own digital ID initiatives.