Friday, November 11, 2016

Is Australia About To Follow Estonia As Far As Digital Identity Management Is Concerned. Australia Card Mark III?

This appeared last week:

National identity card for Australians? Digital government lessons from Estonia

By Marie Sansom on November 1, 2016
As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s digital transformation agenda gathers pace and renewed urgency in the wake of the botched 2016 Census and the new Digital Transformation Agency gets going, the PM would be wise to seek a meeting with government tech heads in Estonia, where 99 per cent of the country’s services are accessible online.
Anna Piperal is the Managing Director of E-Estonia Showroom, a government-funded investment agency that travels the world showcasing Estonia’s digital prowess and its achievements, marking it out as one the most successful e-societies on Earth.
Ms Piperal was recently a keynote speaker at Civica Expo in Sydney but took time out to speak to Government News about how Australia could learn from how Estonia has transformed itself into an exemplar of digital government.

How it happened
The push towards digitalisation in Estonia began in the early 1990s  after Estonia regained its independence when the Soviet Union fell in 1991. The breakaway from Communism provided the impetus to create a new government architecture from the ground up, with no legacy systems to tangle with, but hampered by having few resources and a small population.
The internet had recently arrived and Estonia’s leaders made a conscious decision to use it to build a more open, e-society and attempt to secure the nation’s future. Project Tiger Leap began in 1996, prioritising computers and the internet in schools and other educational institutions and teaching the population IT skills. Legislation followed to create a national ID card and the X-Road, a system linking databases together.
The country has since gone from strength to strength and has achieved some remarkable things.
For example, a foreigner can get a digital identity and open a bank account in Estonia and then register their own company online in 18 minutes, including all background checks. Health records are all electronic; 96 per cent of the population pay their taxes online in less than three minutes; prescriptions are digital and one-third of voting is done online. In fact, Estonia was the first country to use e-voting for parliamentary elections in 2007.
One of the cornerstones of the system is the compulsory national identity card, which was introduced in 2001 for all Estonians over 15 years old, and serves as the digital access card for all of Estonia’s e-services.
Ms Piperal says the identity card has an encrypted chip and is a non-hackable system that everybody can use.
The ID card has an impressive array of functions, for example it can be used as:
  • A driving licence
  • A virtual ticket on public transport in some parts of Estonia
  • A travel document around the European Union
  • To vote electronically from anywhere in the world
  • A health insurance card
  • For digital signatures
  • To pick up e-prescriptions
  • To access government databases, e.g. health records and taxes
  • To verify your identity when dealing with banks, e.g. when applying for a loan
To head off resistance, banks and the government made the idea of a national identity card more palatable to Estonians by offering incentives.
For example, local government in Tallinn – Estonia’s capital – gave people 30 per cent off public transport fares if they used their ID card as virtual tickets and banks offered attractive rates. This built public confidence in the card.
But it’s a different story in Australia, where the idea of a national identity cards has generated a storm of protest. The Australia Card was abandoned 1987 and the Access Card, ostensibly to be used to access Medicare and welfare payments, was dropped in 2007.
Ms Piperal argues that having a national identity card is no more an invasion of privacy than not having one. “It doesn’t mean they [the government] won’t have data about you,” she says. “It’s just that people don’t know the data they might have.”
Some Estonians are now choosing to have digital ID contained in their smartphone SIM cards so they have mobile ID.
Lots more here:
There are some powerful advantages being extracted by Estonia with their digital enablement, and many have looked on with some envy as to the way it seems to work for the Estonian citizenry. What is often forgotten – as mentioned in the article – is that Estonia is a very small unitary state and we in Australia are 20 times larger by population with all those States and Territories.
It will be interesting to see if the Government is interested.

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