Via AFR Weekend : Australia Post’s digital future rises from disruption as it embraces blockchain
Australia Post has been talking up its identity expertise for months and will soon launch a new mobile digital identity platform that could be a vital element of secure digital commerce.
The digital service will allow people to verify their identity in just a few minutes via smartphone using biometric data. The technology will be robust enough to allow individuals to apply for a passport or mortgage by mobile and could become a new growth business for the national utility.
“How do I know you’re who you say you are if I’m dealing with you on the computer?” Australia Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour asks BOSS. “Solving this is one of the holy grails of allowing commerce to occur in our society, to allow interaction in financial services, in legal services between citizens and governments, between businesses, it’s verifying to the level that’s needed.”
The new service would rely on touch, screen, voice and camera functionality of smartphones.
“It’s going to reduce the cost of business, it’s going to speed up business, but very importantly, we’re going also to reduce fraud,” says Fahour. “If we’re able to do this, we’re going to play in a $11 billion ecosystem in Australia alone.”
The new platform is founded on identity services that Australia Post provides, such as for driver’s licences, birth and marriage certificates and passport applications. These have built its reputation as a trusted intermediary.
“What I’m most excited about is that one of our really valuable assets is the trust in our brand,” says Fahour, based on its existing role providing identity check services for those driver’s licences, birth and marriage certificates and passport applications.
AusPost says the new beta version of its service is gaining traction with banks and government agencies. By speeding up identity verification, it can cut the cost of doing business and encourage more transactions. About half of all online transactions that are started are not completed because of complications and delays in filling out identity information.
The service, which AusPost is developing with Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures, will also include blockchain technology.
“We are working with others to offer a blockchain platform to store the identity data in a distributed manner, not just for Australia but other global partners, potentially in the postal world as well,” says Fahour.
Consumer research shows Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about information and personal data they have to give away to get services online. Fahour says the digital footprint everybody is leaving is a worry.
“The question becomes: ‘Who can I trust to help manage my identity? Do I want to trust this global platform that has already got my agreement? Or do I want to trust an organisation like Australia Post, that’s owned by the government of Australia, owned by the people of Australia?’ This is clearly a sales pitch, but we’re here to help citizens, we’re here to look after their interests.”
If its identity service is made an integral part of online transactions, AusPost can charge a fee every time identity verification is used, akin to the interchange fee charged by banks. It will, however, be under pressure to ensure the platform will be interoperable – and both the banks and government agencies, such as the Digital Transformation Agency, are looking at developing competitive platforms.