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Thursday, 16 August 2018 10:12

Who will provide cloud hosting for Govpass? Ah, that is a good question

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Who will provide cloud hosting for Govpass? Ah, that is a good question Pixabay

Australia is scheduled to begin a trial of its Govpass ID system in October, a mere two months down the line. Yet, nobody knows who will be the cloud host for the system after Vault Systems (which has recently rebranded itself as Vault) was unceremoniously yanked from the job.

The Federal Government's Digital Transformation Agency is the overall body in charge and the administration of Govpass has been entrusted to the Department of Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office.

Informed sources have told iTWire that neither the DTA, the DHS nor the ATO have any idea as to who would be handling the cloud hosting for Govpass.

Vault, an IT firm that has gained Protected cloud status from the Australian Signals Directorate — which means it can host government data with the highest security classification — came to know that it would no longer be doing the job on 7 August.

This came as a surprise to the company; when iTWire interviewed the chief executive, Rupert Taylor-Price, on 29 May, he spoke at length about the system and said he was both proudly and nervously awaiting the launch of the trial.

iTWire has asked Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor, via his media minders, as to who will be providing the cloud hosting, given that neither the DHS nor the ATO are into the business. There has been no answer.

Normally, such inquiries are fobbed off to the DTA. That agency was contacted on 8 August to find out if the trial would go ahead as planned and also who would be the cloud host. The DTA stayed mum on the question of who would provide the cloud hosting for Govpass.

The only thing that could be extracted from DTA at that time was: "A pilot of the end-to-end digital Tax File Number application process featuring the Govpass identity provider, myGovID, is expected to begin in October this year.

"The Australian Taxation Office will the be first provider of myGovID. More trials will follow next year."

iTWire has also contacted both the Australian Labor Party's cyber security spokesperson Gai Brodtmann and the Australian Greens' digital spokesperson Jordon Steele-John, for their comments on what appears to be another looming digital disaster.

There has been no response from either party.

Govpass is meant to be a one-time solution for citizens to obtain an ID so that they do not have to repeatedly verify their identity every time they front up to interact with government agencies like Centrelink, the ATO and others.

Yet, the way the government is going about implementing the system is frightening. After a number of IT disasters, the most recent of which was the My Health Record system, one would think that a modicum more of care would be exercised.

But that does not appear to be the case. The approach seems to be that perfected by the former prime minister, Tony Abbott – to crash or crash through.

That would be okay if there was an opt-out for Govpass. There is none, but that does not seem to exercise minds in Canberra with October a couple of months away.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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