Australian Agency Considers Blockchain-Based Welfare Payments

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) recently revealed that it intends to utilize blockchain for Centrelink welfare payment delivery. During the CeBIT Australia conference in Sydney, DTA’s acting CEO Randall Brugeaud said that a prototype is expected to be available in the market come mid-2019.

As part of the 2018-19 Budget, DTA received AU$700,000 for exploring the distributed ledger technology, which according to Brugeaud will provide the innovation agency with an opportunity to delve into various ways to implement blockchain in order to deliver government services securely and efficiently.

Exploring Existing Opportunities

Brugeaud further stated that DTA is exploring existing instances across the government and the private sector to identify how best to approach blockchain-based Commonwealth service delivery. He adds that they will investigate the potential of blockchain in recording transactions securely and learn from the experience of other public and private sector organizations such as CSIRO's work on distributed ledgers.

DTA is also exploring machine learning and artificial intelligence and the potential benefits that they may provide in government service delivery. Brugeaud explains:

“We're looking at how these technologies might offer automated service channels that are closer to the human experience; this might include intelligent chatbots, or voice-enabled channels which are proving to be effective in other sectors.”

The First Pilot Project

DTA will pilot the first Govpass pilot in October 2018. Brugeaud told CeBIT:

“Our international experience demonstrates the importance of digital identity… digital identity opens doors for more digital transformation and joined-up services. It's a critical first step making it easier for end users to deal with government.”

There are over 30 different log-on views across the Australian government that provide to the users access to digital services. According to the Brugeaud, the pilot will be rolled out to almost half a million users of government services by the end of the next financial year.

The pilot will initially relate to Tax File Numbers (TFN). It will enable users to complete their TFN application online, print the application, and then take the application to the Australian Post Office for finalization. Through digital identity, the month long process will only take minutes.

Other services that will be brought online include student services, grants management, business registration and Centrelink services, which might result in the transfer of 2.8 million transactions online.

Two Components

There will also be a digital identity platform that is made up of two components: The identity provider and the exchange. Together, the components operated by the Department of Human Services, will deliver a seamless experience and protect user identity.

Brugeaud further explains that to provide users with control and choice they will deliver a federated model that is governed by the trusted digital identity framework (TDIF), which allows users to select from a range of accredited identity providers.

“The exchange will be critical in protecting the privacy … services providers will not see any of the users’ identity information and in reverse, identity providers will not know what services each user is accessing,” Brugeaud said.

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