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Digital licences on the way

The days of carrying a licence in your wallet – or stuffed into your back pocket – are coming to an end. Following an election promise, the NSW government plans to make all forms of licence digital in the next few years.

First licences to go digital

NSW currently issues more than 23 million licences each year, covering 769 different licence types.

First off the rank will be recreational fishing licences, responsible service of alcohol (RSA) licences, and responsible conduct of gambling (RCG) licences.

Licence holders will be able to display, apply for, update and renew their licences using a smartphone, and get real time information. For people who live far from a registry or Service NSW, it will become much easier to collect a licence.

While all licences in NSW will become digital, digital drivers licences will not be available until the end of 2018.

Privacy and other concerns

A plan like this needs a lot of cooperation from other states and territories in Australia because many organisations rely on licences to check identities. The other question is what happens if your smartphone is out of battery? Iowa and Delaware in the US are also considering similar questions.

One of the biggest concerns is privacy. People hold a lot of personal information on their phones and may be uncomfortable with having their phones easily accessible to government authorities. Others argue that much of our personal information is already online so it makes little difference.

People who are concerned about privacy, or any aspect of digital cards, can still choose a physical one.

The South Australian government wants to trial digital drivers’ licences on mobile phones for tradespeople later in 2016. One information expert claims that platforms on smartphones are still not ready for this kind of service and it would be easy for hackers to break in.

In NSW, the plan is going ahead. “In 2015 our citizens are mobile and digital and that’s where the government should be too”, said NSW Minister for Finance and Services, Dominic Perrottet.

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