The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is set once more to attempt a digital makeover of its longstanding, paper-based Incoming Passenger Cards, while also announcing an overhaul of the visa applications process.
The new Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) system is hoped to improve the efficiency of both form completion for passengers and data collection for authorities from Incoming Passenger Cards – the submission of which are mandated by law for inbound passengers to Australia (with only a few exceptions).
The DPD system will allow passengers to complete their passenger cards on a mobile or laptop and submit these to customs authorities via a new digital platform.
The DPD – which follows a similar scheme attempted by the Government in 2017 – will collect and verify information relating to a passenger’s customs and quarantine status.
Beyond simply removing a longstanding paper process, the new system is also hoped to improve the state’s contact tracing efforts and coronavirus mitigation initiatives.
In future, the DPD is expected to allow certified Covid-19 vaccine certificates to be “digitally uploaded and connected” when they are available. Home Affairs is hoping to have the capability up and running by October 2021.
The role of the Covid-ready DPD will become ever more integral as borders restrictions begin to ease and the risks of introducing foreign-borne Covid infections into Australia increase.
At present, the paper-based incoming passenger cards are scanned and processed manually by customs authorities – a cumbersome process which the Government believes hampers effective contact tracing.
“In a Covid world, this [passenger] information is an invaluable source for contact tracing and the manual process could slow down efforts to control the virus.”
Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge said the new capability will put Australia in a “prime position to successfully reopen our borders in a Covid-safe way”.
“On top of that, it will significantly streamline our national response to Covid-19 and our contact tracing capabilities by speeding up information collection and processing,” Tudge said.
Alongside the DPD, Home Affairs will also work to develop a “simple digital visa product”, after the Government earlier this year announced it would scrap its billion-dollar plan to outsource visa processing.
Both the DPD and “digital visa product” will be developed as test cases for a new “reusable, whole-of-government” digital platform, providing a range of “permission-based services”.
Home Affairs said the new platform will simplify, streamline, and digitise citizen access to services such as licenses, permits, accreditations, and registrations from the Government.
In a recent briefing paper, the DHA acknowledged that many of these services remain
“complex, time-consuming, inconsistent and in some cases still paper-based”.
The platform is expected to be put to tender later this month, creating at least the bare bones functionality to support the simple two test cases by October next year.
The Government has pledged nearly $75 million to deliver the new platform.
Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert, is hoping the new permissions platform initiative will facilitate the move from a “build/buy once, reuse many times approach,” within government, reducing the duplication of ICT investments.
These “reusable capabilities” will allow multiple agencies to solve similar problems in an efficient, collaborative, and technologically integrated manner”, the Government’s information paper states, which details the capability’s impact on service delivery.
The Government is seeking industry partners to help implement the permissions platform, with Home Affairs expected to release an official request for tender in the following weeks.