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Cabinet Office to set up Digital Identity Unit


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Government is planning to set up a new Digital Identity Unit as part of the effort to create a market in the technology.

Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden outlined the plan at the Identity Week conference yesterday, setting out actions to be taken by the Cabinet Office and pushing the continued use of the GOV.UK Verify platform.

He said the Digital Identity Unit will be set up in a collaboration with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

It will work on bringing together the public and private sector and to support the adoption of interoperability standards, specifications and schemes.

The unit will also work on delivering the outcome of a consultation, to begin in the coming weeks, on how to effectively organise the digital identity market. The Government will use the consultation to work with industry, particularly with sectors that have frequent user identity interactions, to ensure ‘rules of the road’ for identity.

Another step will be the beginning of an engagement on the commercial framework for consuming digital identities from the private sector, beginning in April of next year, to ensure the continued delivery of public services.

Financial cut-off

This aligns with the point at which the Government plans to remove financial support for GOV.UK Verify – the digital identity platform developed by the Government Digital Service – although GDS will continue to support the alignment of commercial models to build an ecosystem.

Dowden said there are now 20 government services connected to Verify and that the number of citizens using it to access services increased by 1 million between October 2018 and April of this year.

His speech is the latest attempt by the Cabinet Office to win support for the platform, which has fallen far short of expectations for its use since it went live in 2016. The initial projection was that it would be used by at least 46 government services by March 2018, and the Government Transformation Strategy forecast it would have 25 million users by next year, but the figure for March this year was just 3.9 million.

It has recently been subject to sharp criticisms from the National Audit Office and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, with calls for a detailed plan on how it will be maintained after 2020.

In October of last year the Cabinet Office handed over responsibility for increasing its use to private sector identity providers. But it has also persisted with its development with steps including providing more clarity around the digital identity standards and creating two new security bodies to support its use.

Image: Simon Waldherr, Creative Commons through Wikimedia




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