Digital driver's licence

Speech by the Minister of Customer Service, Victor Dominello, to the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) on 6 November 2019.

Thank you for attending today. I begin by acknowledging country and pay my respects to elders past and present. I am thankful to the AIIA for hosting us today.

On Sunday, the Premier and I announced the state-wide rollout of the digital driver’s licence. In the first week since it went live, we’ve had more than 680,000 people opt-in to the digital licence.

Just a quick show of hands: how many of you here already have your digital licence? You can get it now through the Service NSW app and your MyService account.

Today I want to share with you the story behind the Digital Driver’s Licence; the past, the present and the future.

The past: how we got here

Let’s start: how did we get here?

In NSW, we have an aspiration not just to lead Australia, but to be a world leader when it comes to 21st century service delivery for the people of our state.

When it comes to identity, the driver’s licence, closely followed by the photo card, are the most frequently used documents to prove who you are. Whether it’s entering a club, boarding a flight, purchasing alcohol or collecting parcels from Australia Post.

From a government’s perspective it is widely used to keep our community safe - from cops to kids; from ensuring that you are qualified to drive, to establishing identity as you visit schools.

It is a quirk of history that the driver’s licence has become the cornerstone identity document – after all, it is a humble permission to drive, yet over the past few decades it has evolved into something far more significant.

Therefore, digitising the driver’s licence became a priority focus for the digital infrastructure we are mapping out.

The trials

The journey has not been easy. As anyone who has worked with identity would know, it is such a complex landscape to navigate. It has so many moving parts.

On this note, I want to give a big shout out not just to my amazing agency Service NSW but equally to Police and Transport. Without their earnest collaboration and deep subject knowledge, the DDL would never have happened.

Promising is the easy part. Delivering is the hard part.

We had to resist the temptation to do it all at once. We had to resist the temptation to focus all our planning and resources around one big bold brassy “here it is” announcement.

The opportunity presented by the digital licence was way too critical. For this reason, we have designed big but built small.

We started with three trials: a relatively contained regional community; a busy metropolitan area with a high concentration of pubs and clubs; a community near an interstate border.

We selected Dubbo for the regional trial, the Eastern Beaches for the metro trial, and Albury for the border trial.

Finally, we rolled out the digital licence to all staff in the Department of Customer Service, my department, which has around 5000 staff all across NSW, to test for scale.

In total, more than 20,000 people took part in the various trials.

Trial results

What did we learn from the trials?

For a start, our customer feedback from trial participants was 80% positive.

We also focussed on the experience of those who might check a licence, working closely with the NSW Police and the liquor and gaming industry.

For example, as a result of feedback from the liquor and gaming industry during the trial, we redesigned the digital driver’s licence to better indicate when a user is underage.

Launch statistics

And I am very pleased to share that, as of today, more than 680,000 people in NSW have got their digital driver’s licence. That’s more than 12% of all drivers across the state.

But not only have we had extraordinary levels of adoption within a very short compass, our feedback is remarkable: of the 72,000 people who have given us feedback, 97% have given it the thumbs up. So from 80% in the trial to 97% from our first week of the state-wide launch.

One of the highlights of the launch has been the enormous benefit of real-time statistics and data. All the way through last week, we’ve had to-the-minute data (ie. real time) on adoption and feedback across the state.

This gives unparalleled visibility into the customer experience on-the-ground as it is happening. This means that we had engineers making adjustments throughout the night as the real time feedback was coming in.

This real time feedback and the agility it provides is cutting edge for the private sector, let alone for a big government like NSW.

The present: important design features

If you’ve heard me speak before, when it comes to technology delivery -you’ll know there are four particular areas I care deeply about: privacy, security, transparency and ethics.

To me, these are non-negotiable when delivering digital services.

Privacy

First of all, the digital licence is opt-in. It is up to you if you’d like to use it. If you don’t want to, you can carry on using the plastic card with no issue at all.

We’ve completed three privacy assessments throughout the alpha and beta phases of the licence and have been working closely with the NSW Privacy Commissioner throughout.

We’ve put privacy first in the design of the verification process – when your licence is checked, you don’t need to give your phone to the checker or police. Not only is this in the design, it’s the law. To paraphrase the legislation: “a person who displays a digital driver licence is not required to hand over the mobile phone”.

The high bar for privacy that we have set for the DDL doesn’t necessarily apply to third party users.

Let me explain.

The Service NSW app does not access any personal information on your phone. It does not track, store or share your location.

However, if you show your driver’s licence (whether it is plastic or digital) to someone else for the purposes of entering a venue, or collecting a parcel or any other activity, you would need to understand the privacy settings of that third party.

I am a very strong advocate for the use of technology and data to improve our world, but we must make sure that privacy keeps pace.

In Europe they have introduced the GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, which significantly improves privacy settings for everyone, including third parties.

Given the digital maturity and ambition for our country, there is a strong case to look carefully at what can be done to strengthen the privacy protections for citizens, look at what the EU have implemented with the GDPR.

Getting this right will both protect citizens and better support cross-border trade. I have no doubt that it will eventually happen in Australia – but the question is: will we be on the front foot or the back foot?

Security

In many cases, the digital licence is more secure than the plastic card. If you lose your plastic card and somebody else finds it, they can see all your details, they could make a copy - you would never know. You’d be waiting weeks for a replacement licence to arrive.

The digital licence, being on your phone, is protected by your passcode, fingerprint, face ID – so if you lose your phone, your digital licence is safe. And when you find your phone, or get a new one, you can immediately use your digital licence again.

We take cyber security very seriously in NSW. The digital licence has been through multiple rounds of security testing and audits, including by our own Cyber Security NSW team.

I am also pleased to say that, as part of the development of the digital licence, Service NSW have launched a bug bounty program. This allows independent security experts to get hands on with the underlying code and get rewarded for finding areas where the security of our platforms can be further improved.

I want to give a special mention here to Mr Yaakov Smith – a white hat hacker who didn’t just come forward to help us with the security of the digital licence, but gave a whole conference talk on it earlier this year – and thank you very much for working with Service NSW on this.

Bug bounties are commonplace in the technology industry and this is one of the first examples of a state government collaborating with the cyber security industry in this way. Ultimately, it means the people and businesses of NSW get safer access to government services.

The future: where to from here

Interoperability

So – where to from here?

We’ve already started engaging with the other states and territories on interstate acceptance of the NSW digital driver’s licence.

I’m encouraged by the good will and collaboration around the country. Once NSW amends its legislation, I’m confident that interstate acceptance of the DDL for proof of age and permission to drive will follow shortly thereafter.

Increasing use cases

Initially, the digital drivers licence is essentially proof that you have permission to drive – but this is just the start.

We know that there are many other possible use cases for the DDL.

Think of it like concentric rings in a tree. We’ve started with permission to drive. The next ring, signing into a club. Next, ring after that, proof of age to get into a pub. After that, perhaps proving your ID at the airport when you’re checking in for a domestic flight or providing a copy of your ID when you’re on holiday, renting a car.

There is a broad and growing ecosystem for potential uses for the digital driver’s licence and we want to proactively support that ecosystem to work at the same pace so they can also accept the DDL

Harmonization: bringing more licences on the platform

Now that we’ve created the digital driver’s licence on a platform that people like, what other licences across NSW can we bring onto this platform to harmonise the look and feel and create consistency?

For example, you can already add your fishing licence, your boat licence, or your RSA if you sell alcohol. Trade licences are next on the list – whether construction or carpentry, painting or plumbing. You can expect the first new licences to be available digitally next year.

This is what I refer to as the harmonisation of licences.

Synthetisation

Now for the big question.

What is the future of the licence? Not particularly the driving licence, or the fishing licence – but the concept of the licence itself.

About 150 years ago you didn’t have any use for a drivers licence and 50 years’ time you probably won’t as well. Just think about it, with autonomous vehicles and better public transport options, in 50 years’ time a personal driver’s licence may be a relic of the early 21st century.

So let’s prepare for that now.

For this inspiration I seek guidance from the anti-clutter crusader – Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo would not want a whole lot of different paper licences to be replaced with a whole lot of different plastic licences - to be replaced with a smart phone full of a whole lot of different digital licences. For Marie Kondo, digital clutter does not spark joy.

To make Marie Kondo happy – and I want to make her happy – not only will we harmonise, we will synthesize.

In the future, we won’t be talking about “our driver’s licence”. We will be talking about an opt-in multipurpose NSW Licence.

One digital licence that shows your permission to drive - tick, permission to work with children - tick, permission to sell alcohol, and so on.

When your details change, you can tell government once and subject to your express consent, your details will be updated with every agency you grant permission to. In this way, when you apply for an additional permit from Government to undertake a given activity, your details are filled automatically.

We have an ambitious plan to significantly improve customer service for individuals and businesses alike, through the tell us once prism. Whether it’s Service NSW for Business, e-invoicing, e-planning, e-construction, e-regulation, life journey, etc, etc, etc.

There’s so much in the pipeline.

This is not a vision we will achieve overnight. It is a path paved with many obstacles to overcome: from the underlying technology, to the legislative changes, to achieving it in a way that is truly opt-in and designed around privacy. But I’m sharing this with you to give you a flavour of where we would like to go, so stay tuned.

Conclusion

So that’s the story of the digital driver’s licence: where we came from, how we’ve designed it, and where we’re going next.

I make this commitment to you today. In 3 months’ time, I will come back to you with an update of what we are doing: namely how well we are doing, what we have further learnt and what is further still on the horizon.

Today does not mean that the digital driver’s licence is done. Far from it. We have just started. Like the smart phone, you will see constant improvements to the digital licence in terms of where, how and what for.

I promised before the last election that if we won the confidence of the people of our state, in terms of service delivery, we not change gears - we would change dimension.

Today it’s the digital driver’s licence, a few weeks ago it was Park’nPay.

Later this month we will launch our digital strategy.

There are so many things that we are working on that will improve the customer experience that I would like to share with you on another occasion – watch this space.

When it comes to digital and service delivery – to channel the words of our Premier – we are getting it done!

Thank you.

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