MyGov app facing overhaul to centralise online identification

<span>Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP</span>
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The federal government’s much-maligned myGov app faces an overhaul and could soon be used for online identity verification, as well as an increasing number of government services.

An audit review, undertaken by former Telstra chief executive David Thodey and a panel of experts appointed by the Albanese government in September last year, recommended a significant overhaul of myGov, which houses Medicare and Centrelink.

The review, released on Tuesday, found that in the nine years since myGov launched in 2013, it had gone from “a strategically important ICT system to an indispensable part of the Australian government service delivery ecosystem”.

It said the number of myGov users has more than doubled in the last five years from 11.7 million in June 2017 to more than 25 million as of September 2022. The number of daily logins is now at 1.4m – more than triple what it was three years ago.

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But while in that time satisfaction with the service had risen from 40% to 45%, the report said it was still too low.

Key issues included that agencies were not utilising some of the functionality designed to make it easier to use, with some requiring manual intervention to achieve.

Recent improvements had been helped by a temporary $200m boost in the 2021-2022 budget from the Morrison government, bringing the annual myGov budget to $138m.

The review noted this funding was due to expire in 2023, and “opportunistic funding bursts” in future should be avoided in favour of sustained investment in myGov at current levels with a development fund to deliver updated capabilities and more services.

It said that should include ensuring all the services myGov links to have a similar user experience. The report found that myGov’s development as a service had been “hampered by agencies pursuing their own agendas”.

“These separate perspectives are important but should not dominate at the expense of bringing things together for Australians,” the report said.

One of the major changes the report recommended is advancing legislation for a government-led national ID system in mid-2023 that included “safe use of [facial] biometric matching” with independent regulator oversight and security safeguards.

By the end of 2023, the government could then start transitioning to digital ID to sign into government services, and it could begin to be used as a method for people to verify their identity online without needing each business or agency to collect personal documentation.

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The one-to-one facial matching system will use driver licence photos from states that have already signed up to the scheme and passed legislation to allow it to be used for that purpose but were waiting on federal legislation, which lapsed under the former Morrison government.

The report recommended the government consider merging the myGov and myGovID apps into a single mobile app or rebrand myGovID.

The minister for finance, Katy Gallagher, said that the digital ID was a “clear priority” for the government.

The government services minister, Bill Shorten, said the report showed the government was “on the right track” but will respond to the audit and the public feedback later in 2023.

The report authors noted that regardless of improvements to myGov, not everyone will want to or be able to use it.

“Other service channels – such as telephone and face to face – will remain critical and need to be funded and supported accordingly,” the report said.