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NSW Government proposes digital driver's licenses for smartphones

Forget fumbling for your license in a wallet full of cards -- NSW drivers could soon by displaying their driver's license, boat license or photo ID on their smartphone.

A mock-up of one of the proposed digital licenses. NSW Department of Finance & Services

NSW residents could soon be cutting up their plastic licenses and flashing their ID on a smartphone under changes proposed by the State Government.

In a bid to simplify the licensing system, cut down on the millions of plastic cards issued every year and stay in touch with the growing "private sector" trend towards digitisation, the NSW State Government has announced a proposal to introduce the scheme.

In a first for Australia, the state Minister for Finance & Services, Dominic Perrottet confirmed the Liberal Baird government would introduce digital licenses if reelected in the March 28 state election.

The "transition" to digital licensing would occur over the next four years, and would offer NSW residents the licenses on an opt-in basis. While the Government confirmed that the state's Digital Council would "develop a roadmap for taking all licences digital," plastic licenses would continue to be made available in the near term.

Speaking about the move, Mr Perrottet said digital licensing would tap into the public's growing use of smartphones for everyday tasks.

"There are currently over 123 different licence types and we issue over 2.8 million plastic cards each year, costing us tens of millions of dollars in printing.

Photo ID cards would also be included in the scheme. NSW Department of Finance & Services

"We will target digital formats for a range of common licences, including NSW photo cards, boat and fishing licences, and eventually drivers' licences. Over time, this means that citizens will not need to carry around multiple licences in their wallets.

"This commitment is the first of its kind in Australia, and we will ensure our digital licensing system is at the cutting edge of international best practice."

In December 2014, the US state of Iowa announced a plan to bring in digital licensing, which was shortly followed by similar moves in Delaware in January this year.

The move does raise questions about interstate travel and whether identification would be accepted outside of NSW, as well as potential implications for privacy and digital security.

However, the Government said it would work with the state's Digital Council -- which includes representatives from the Police, Roads and Maritime Services and Service NSW -- to introduce the scheme within its next term, if elected.

"I look forward to working with the Digital Council to ensure that security, privacy and regulatory issues are worked through," said Mr Perrottet. "The Police Commissioner is a strong supporter of this reform, and he will be consulted closely during the implementation of this exciting initiative."

"This is all about offering our citizens choice and convenience. People expect to transact with government online, when they want and how they want -- and we intend to meet those expectations."