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A new era awaits Government-assured digital identity


Having learned in January that Government Digital Service (GDS) had decided to place Verify on a ‘lockdown’ this quarter (January-March), the first part of 2018 looked like it would be a write-off in terms of any progress towards the ambition of +20 million users by 2020.

Apparently, three areas have to be hammered out:

  • Hub Certification process
  • The Rulebook
  • Document Checking service

This got me thinking about what the shape of the Verify scheme might look like.

Hub Certification process

On the face of it, this is about more hoops for Hub Service Providers (HSPs) to jump through. In practical terms, there may be an external audit requirement placed on this.

If that is the case then no doubt the HSPs will comply with it. But perhaps the key test will turn out to be the ability to keep your eye on the prize, so to speak. You have to think about the long view in these things.

The Rulebook

This is about how Identity Providers (IDPs) contract with the HSPs. I’ve learned that this Rulebook is 95% done; apparently it requires more work by the lawyers to complete.

I’ve been assured that this is well advanced and work will conclude at the end of March 2018. Should the lockdown continue, it will inevitable be met with groans from IDPs upon whom the scheme depends. And who can blame them. They have shown incredible patience.

Document Checking service

This is about a requirement that’s upon GDS to write to the relevant central government department to request a waiver where the digital identity of citizens using the Verify scheme is matched against data held on citizens by those departments.

It’s important to recognise that no data is actually shared by the department, only matched and corroborated, in simple terms, with a binary-like true false reply in the system.

Citizens with concerns about data being ‘snooped’ by Government need not worry. The system just isn’t design that way on purpose for very obvious reasons of confidentiality, integrity and availability.

To sum up

It is vital to increase awareness of Verify scheme. GDS is vitally aware of this. Interestingly, GDS asked all government departments to put Verify on their own public-facing communications materials. To date, surprising few departments actually have. Therein is a vital piece of work for those in GDS with sufficient clout to carry it through.

Cooperation from departments, awareness among citizens, the Hub certification, the Rulebook, the Document Checking service and the end of lockdown by end of March. There – you are up to date.

It all sounds unnecessarily protracted, doesn’t it? But I have to say I am rather upbeat. And so are numerous people I talk to. Everyone is ready to get on with it.

Perhaps the answers are hiding in plain sight. As for me, working to ensure GDS is doing everything it can to move things forward is what I’ll be focusing on.

Frank Joshi is director of Mvine Ltd, an established British SME specialising in next generation platforms that power the digital economy.

First published by Government Computing, 09 March 2018.

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