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GDS minister states ambition for single sign-on for Whitehall services

16/09/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is aiming to develop a single sign-on for online central government services, according to the minister with oversight of the organisation.

Julia Lopez

Julia Lopez MP, the parliamentary secretary with responsibility for GDS in the Cabinet Office, outlined the “vision” in a speech to the online Smarter State conference staged by IT industry association techUK.

She said the aim to is save people from repeatedly entering the same data for different government services.

“Our vision is for members of the public to be able to access any online central government service simply, safely and securely using a single sign-on. When necessary to prove your identity it should be as easy as possible without entering new information.

“Over time, we want to create new and innovative services, as well as improve the quality and efficiency of the services we deliver.  It may also open the door to personalisation, where those users who want can be alerted to changes that might affect them.

“I recognise that creating a single sign-on will be a really complex task, and I’m alive to concerns about privacy. That’s why I want to engage early on the journey to make sure there’s a robust, consent based approach.

“The key point and core principle is user control. We want to work towards a state where data use in government is set up to ensure that people, when they choose to, don’t need to restate their data on repeat occasions to different parts of government. Instead data can be accessed, verified and stored when appropriate in order to provide a proactive and low friction service to the user.”

Lopez did not refer to how a new service could compare with the GOV.UK Verify identity assurance service developed by GDS over the past few years, and has had a disappointing take-up by other departments and for which HM Treasury plans to withdraw funding next year. Neither was she available for questions after the speech.

She stated a familiar point on the need for government to improve its sharing of data, with a need to put in place the right organisational structures and levers and to deal with legacy IT issues. This came with a suggestion that the recent transfer of responsibility for data in government from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to the Cabinet Office will be a positive step in making it happen.

Image by Richard Townshed, CC BY 3.0

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