CeBIT 2010: Federated login unecessary for most - Human Services

Australia's online service portal works, but isn't needed for all government departments

Australia's only federated login for government services, the Australian Government Online Service Point, isn't necessary for most government departments, according to the Department of Human Services deputy secretary of ICT infrastructure, John Wadeson.

The login system, available on the australia.gov.au website, allows users to sign-on to different government services through a single portal. However, so far, the service is only available for Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support; all under the Department of Human Services portfolio.

Wadeson said that other federal government agencies lacked the customer base of Human Services to warrant addition to the service.

"Who else has big customer groups that require a reasonable level of security," Wadeson said.

Even tax, according to Wadeson, is not a high priority, since users only need to access it once a year, and many use tax agents who have business-to-business connections anyway.

Taxpayers can lodge their own tax returns through the Internet from government-developed e-tax software, but this is only available for Windows platforms, leaving Mac and Linux users in the cold.

A report released by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in March recommended wider use of the online service point by government agencies as a way of reducing red tape between the government, citizens and businesses. The recommendation is yet to be implemented on a wider scale, and it is unknown whether the service will be extended to state government departments for wider use.

A study into government online services also found that most citizens preferred to interact with the government online, with 55 to 64 year olds the most frequent users of existing online services.

The federated log-in has seen moderate success, with 13,000 users accessing it per month at last check, up from 1000 when first released, according to Wadeson.

"[AGIMO] seems pleased with the outcome," he said.

The service portal is accessible through a button in the top-right corner of the australia.gov.au home page, but hasn't received any wide publication. Wadeson said Centrelink was tasked with promoting common authentication across government departments.

"There's the intention in government to do it, but at the minute, what we've shown is that you can do it."

Interest in federated login systems has accelerated over the past few years internationally and among both private and public sectors. Search giant Google promotes the use of the open-source OpenID platform for common authentication, while social networking site Facebook offers Facebook Connect and other services allowing the use of its existing sign-on system as a means of accessing other websites.

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Tags Department of Human ServicesAustralian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO)

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