The night before any international flight, I’m guaranteed to wake up at least 17 times, terrified that I’m going to forget or lose my passport at some point between my front door and the departure gate. Then, for the duration of the trip, I worry that it will somehow disappear from the drawer where I stashed it. But a proposed plan in Australia could eventually eliminate the fears of anxious travelers like me. Australia is currently considering a transition to cloud-based passports, where travelers’ identity information, fingerprints and other biometric data would be stored online.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said:
“We’re in discussions with New Zealand and if we’re able to put in place the appropriate requirements, including security, then it’s something we’d like to trial and implement. Australia prides itself on having one of the most secure passports in the world, but by embracing and harnessing new technologies, we might be able to do better.”
The cloud-based passport would eliminate the need for travelers to carry a paper passport — and it would also cut down on the cost and hassle of replacing a lost, stolen or damaged one. According to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 38,718 passports were reported as being lost or stolen last year, which is about the annual average.
The idea of the electronically stored passport was proposed as part of a hackathon sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs. There were almost 400 ideas submitted to the DFAT Ideas Challenge; the top 10 were then presented to a team of judges, which included Bishop, other ministers and a representative from the World Bank. The judges were in favor of passport-free travel, although they have yet to determine exactly how it would be executed — and what kind of security measures might be necessary to protect that data. Regardless, the ministers believe that it has the potential to go well beyond their own borders. “We think it will go global,” Bishop told reporters.