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GDS runs ‘discreet pilot’ on successor to Verify


Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez MP has confirmed it is running a “discreet pilot” of a new digital identity system as a successor to GOV.UK Verify.

She acknowledged the move in a speech to The Investing and Savings Alliance (TISA) conference last week, saying it is being led by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

It comes as the Cabinet Office plans to withdraw its support for Verify later this year, after it has been kept going to facilitate a surge in sign-ups for universal credit due the pandemic lockdown.

Lopez (pictured) commented: “Our discrete digital identity pilot project, deliberately small in scale at the start, will create the proof of concept. This will be led and coordinated by GDS, co-designed with Whitehall departments and public services, and be largely government built and government owned.

“Initially, it will connect only a small number of services but will have the capability to grow rapidly once the scheme is judged to be on track.”

She added that the goal is to develop a successor both to Verify – which has been beset by problems and had a disappointingly low take-up by public sector bodies and sign-up by the public since its launch in 2016 – and other digital identity systems used in government.

Various other initiatives have emerged within government, including the Department for Work and Pensions’ plan for a Dynamic Trust Hub, HM Land Registry’s launch of a digital identity standard, and the Scottish Government’s development of a prototype system. In addition, HM Revenue and Customs has continually retained the use of the Government Gateway as a log-in mechanism.

Reduce over-elaborations

“While the best elements of Verify will be reused where appropriate, all parties are keen to move on from Verify’s over-elaborate expectations trajectory and cost,” Lopez said. “Good progress on our pilot is expected in coming months, with joint discovery work due to accelerate further.”

She related the plan to the development by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) of the recently published trust framework for digital identities across public and private sectors, in which GDS played a significant role.

She also tied it to the development of a GOV.UK account for the public, work on which began with a trial account linked the Brexit Checker, and which is aimed at enabling government to push targeted advice and information to account holders.

“Over the rest of the year, the next stage of our work focuses on trialling personalisation and how – based on the information users are happy to provide about their circumstances – we can offer them a more tailored service with easier and quicker access to relevant information,” Lopez said.

This is part of an ambition to develop “one log-in for government” under which people will have to prove their identity only once for accessing services.

The minister also highlighted the Cabinet Office’s ambition for government to get better at sharing and analysing information across departments. She pointed to the Data Standards Authority’s work on the government’s API Catalogue and on reference data, saying this will underpin the work on GOV.UK accounts and digital identity.

Image by Richard Townshed, CC BY 3.0

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