Department says identity assurance will be open to others to use, but insists it is not competing with GOV.UK Verify
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has confirmed its plan to renew the Government Gateway, its existing mechanism for identity assurance, when the current service expires in March of next year.
Mike Howes-Roberts, director of the relevant programme, has said in a blogpost that it is aiming to deliver a new version of the service to take over.
This follows news that emerged last year, firstly that HMRC was working on an online authentication service to run alongside GOV.UK Verify, then that it was providing fresh support for users of the Gateway.
“There is much the current Government Gateway service does well and we’ll be looking to take forward into a new solution,” Howes-Roberts says in the blog. “But we also know we can provide a more agile, flexible and secure set of services, and at lower cost.”
The move is likely to stir up speculation about the prospects for increasing the use of GOV.UK Verify, the identity assurance mechanism developed by the Government Digital Service. Earlier this month it was revealed that, several months after its launch, it is being used for just 12 central government services; and the Government has set a target for 25 million users by the end of 2020 as part of its new Transformation Strategy.
Howes-Roberts has apparently anticipated some of the questions it raises, indicating that the use of Gateway could be trimmed back. He says the new version will be intended for 53 of the existing 123 across government for which the existing one is used.
He adds that HMRC is working with other departments to give them the option of using the new version, and has set up a steering group to explore the possibilities. But he says it will be restricted to business and agent-facing services only, leaving the field clear for Verify to provide the authentication of individuals’ identities.
An HMRC spokesperson followed up with a statement that the two services would complement, not compete with each other.
“HMRC is committed to Verify as the single identification service for individuals and is fully focused on delivering this," he said. "The authentication service that HMRC is developing to replace the Government Gateway will complement the existing Verify service for business representatives."
The Government Gateway was launched in 2001 on the first big wave of taking government services online, and now has more than 50 million active accounts and is used for 406 million authentications a year.
Image by Michael Coghlan, CC BY 2.0 through flickr