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Identity assurance has cost £25m - so far



National Audit Office says that long term funding arrangements are still 'under discussion'

The Cabinet Office's identity assurance programme has so far cost £25 million, parliament's spending watchdog has revealed. However a mechanism for long term funding for the scheme, which underpins the digital by default programme, is still under discussion, a paper by the National Audit Office has revealed.

The paper is intended as a briefing for departments intending to use GOV.UK Verify in their digital services. However it also provides an interesting independent snapshot of the crucial programme. It notes that identity assurance, to be promoted under the GOV.UK Verify brand, is a solution to "something that government has historically found difficult".

The aim is "to create a competitive market of identity assurance providers" to stimulate innovation and cut costs. The briefing says that the Government Digital Service "is planning to support people to make an informed decision in their choice of identity provider".

As the Labour Party's digital government review observed last month, people are likely to resort to government documents such as driving licences and passports to establish their identities with the providers. A document checking service will match these against government databases without sharing information directly.

The NAO report also notes that identity providers will offer online-only services. "Over time, the majority of people will be able to register through the GDS online identity assurance scheme and departments will be able to phase out any existing alternative face-to-face, telephone, or postal identity assurance services."

This phasing out may be long drawn out. The briefing paper notes that when it comes to using the new services with secure government services, government departments will need to match new registered identities with their historic records. "There may be data-matching problems where departments have old or slightly different information" such as maiden names or addresses and names in different formats.

Accordingly "departments, identity providers and GDS will need to help support people when problems arise... People may want to talk to a call centre for support, or raise a complaint to an arbitrator."

All government departments are supposed to have integrated the common identity assurance service with their digital public services by March 2016. "At this point, the government plans to stop using the Government Gateway for citizen identity assurance; although it will continue to be used for business and other verification purposes."

However it seems that a question still hangs over the programme's funding. "From 2015-16 onwards, the programme intends that the operational costs of the service will be funded centrally. The methodology for this funding arrangement is under discussion now with HM Treasury and will be confirmed in spring 2015."

Pictured: logon screen | HAAP Media Ltd. ("freeimages")

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