In a September 13 press release, the Australian Ministry of Home Affairs announced its latest step in preparing to reopen the country to international travel by appointing Ireland-based technology and consulting firm Accenture to deliver and administer the new Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD).
The digital pass is intended to replace the current physical vaccination card and COVID-19 Australian Travel Declaration web form, capturing travel-critical data up to 72 hours prior to travel, with inbound travelers able to complete the DPD on a computer or mobile smart device. It will additionally provide State and Territory public health authorities with government-approved and verified travel, health, and vaccine status information of international travellers.
Stuart Robert, the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business as well as the Minister responsible for data and digital policy, has stated that once the DPD is fully implemented, the government will consider how the same underlying technology can be reused to deliver additional functionality to other government services. “The overarching digitisation program could include visas, import permits, personnel identity cards, licenses, registrations, and other documents, making previously cumbersome processes easier, safer and more transparent,” said Robert.
While the Australian border is not immediately slated for reopening at scale, the move is intended to be a proactive step to ensure safe travel once public health guidance supports permitting increased travel. The border has been more or less closed to non-residents since March of 2020 in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, with a 14-day quarantine period required of anyone returning. The government has stated its intention to increase international travel permissions once 80% of the adult population of Australia is fully vaccinated, with the current rate sitting around 50%. With recent upsurges in case numbers having forced additional, unpopular lockdowns, the government is turning its focus to increasing vaccination rates as opposed to eliminating cases entirely.
The contract was awarded through a competitive tender process run by the Department of Home Affairs, with the firm working closely with the Department to deliver the initial working implementation later in the year. Accenture has a matter of months to implement the DPD in its testing phase before at-scale deployment throughout major Australian airports.