The government has approved proposals to establish a Digital Identity Trust Framework in law, with Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications David Clark planning to introduce the Bill later this year.
Broadly, the Digital Identity Trust Framework is a regulatory framework that will set out rules for the delivery of digital identity services. It will aim to address gaps in regulation and assist the development of trusted, people-centred digital identity services.
The framework will apply to service, technology and information providers. It also includes supporting governance, accreditation and legal enforcement mechanisms.
The government noted in late 2019 that the creation of a Digital Identity Trust Framework was one of its digital focus areas, when the Department of Internal Affairs released its all-of-government digital programme of work across five focus areas and multiple programmes.
The five digital focus areas hoped to position the government to achieve its vision of a "unified modern, agile and adaptive digital public service" were: integrated services for citizens and businesses; leadership, people and culture; foundations; investment; and new ways of working.
The foundations focus area was the most ICT-specific category, featuring the development of the digital architecture blueprint and defining principles and develop a transition strategy for the retirement of legacy systems, in partnership with Treasury.
That area also targeted the creation of the Digital Identity Trust Framework and assessing the potential of an API marketplace, as well as cloud policy and security.
In August last year, the government confirmed that a Digital Identity Trust Framework based in legislation would be developed, with the trust framework set to be a regulatory regime that ensures that identity service providers meet the required rules.
It is hoped the trust framework will also ensure that citizens and businesses can have trust and confidence that their identity information is being handled appropriately, the government said at the time.
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) was to develop an interim trust framework to enable the framework rules to be developed and tested with digital identity providers while the legislation was being drafted.
The legislation, which was already expected to be introduced into the House of Representatives this year, will enable providers to be legally accredited against the trust framework rules, and will be based on existing and developing standards.
It is anticipated that the trust framework will support the development of security, privacy-enhancing and interoperable approaches to digital identity services, to maximise benefits for citizens, the economy and society.
To inform this process, the DIA is testing a range of approaches through pilot programmes with public and private sector organisations.
Now, Clark has confirmed that the government remains on track to bring in the proposed legislation, saying he hopes to introduce the Bill later this year and plans to consult with industry to ensure that the government creates a consistent digital identity system that promotes trust in how New Zealanders share their information.
“COVID-19 has shown us that when face-to-face interactions prove difficult, we need trusted digital services,” Clark said in a speech at InternetNZ on 3 May. “The government is committed to enhancing trust and confidence in how organisations handle personal and business identity information.
“The legislation will ensure that everyone is clear on their rights and obligations. It will do this by setting out how that information should be handled by private and public trust framework participants.
“I am bringing this Bill to Parliament as I can see the benefits it will bring to New Zealanders, businesses and to government. It will mean kiwis who need to share information about themselves can do so on their terms, with peace of mind about the security of said information,” he added.
Clark claimed the trust framework would make it easier for individuals to prove their qualifications and to start new jobs without needing to show documents in-person, while businesses could save time and money too, as they will be able to spend less time handling physical copies of documentation.
“This trust framework will give the tech sector a solid reference for how they can innovate and grow – while being interoperable and trustworthy,” he said. “The framework will be recognised overseas, including places like Australia. As a result, kiwis will be able to digitally share information about themselves in a far more efficient way.
“I am committed to ensuring that the digital identity system reflects Māori perspectives...That’s why, my officials are engaging extensively with iwi to deliver this framework in a way that supports tikanga Māori.
“In conclusion, a trusted modern digital identity system will help grow our digital economy, transform government services and ensure all New Zealanders can take part in the digital world,” he said.