A new digital border pass that will collect travel and health information including people’s vaccination status will be introduced within months after an international IT firm was awarded the tender to automate the process of entering the country.
The Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) will replace the physical Incoming Passenger Card and the digital COVID-19 Australian Travel Declaration form. It will collect personal information including passengers’ vaccination status up to 72 hours before boarding and provide the digital authority for vaccinated Australians to travel.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Wednesday Accenture, one of the world’s largest technology consulting firms, had been awarded the tender, worth about $75 million.
Ms Andrews said the DPD would support the “safe reopening of the border at scale when supported by health advice” by providing digitally verified COVID-19 vaccination details.
“This will help us to welcome home increasing numbers of Australians and welcome the tourists, travellers, international students, skilled workers and overseas friends and family we’ve all been missing during the pandemic,” she said.
Unlike the prospect of domestic vaccine certificates - which could be required for large-scale sporting events, nightclubs and major tourist attractions and are opposed by a growing number of federal MPs - proof-of-vaccination requirements for international travel appear to be less contentious.
The new digital system will link in with the QR code vaccination certificate to be introduced this month so it can digitally give permission to vaccinated travellers to enter the country. The technology could eventually also take in visas, import and export permits and licences as well as other government services.
A federal ban on Australians leaving the country will be dropped as soon as November under the plans.
The vaccine certificates, which have been developed by Services Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, will connect with the DPD, which is being developed by the Department of Home Affairs, to allow for the collection of health information. The DPD will also provide the capacity to share information about people’s travel, health and vaccine status with state and territory public health authorities.
The confirmation that the government is pressing ahead with the new digital system comes after it last year shelved a related plan to outsource Australia’s visa processing system after spending almost $92 million on the tender.
Passengers coming into Australia will be able to complete the DPD on their mobile device or computer.
The government said Accenture was awarded the work through a competitive tender process run independently by Home Affairs.
Minister responsible for data and digital policy Stuart Robert said following the implementation of the DPD, the government would consider how the same technology could be used to deliver digital upgrades to other government services.
“The overarching digitisation program could include visas, import permits, personnel identity cards, licences, registrations and other documents, making previously cumbersome processes easier, safer and more transparent,” he said.
The DPD will now move into a testing phase before being deployed, at scale, throughout major Australian airports.