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Project points to using council data in Verify

24/02/17

Discovery scheme in Tower Hamlets indicates that a digital aggregator could play a role in authenticating identities

A discovery scheme run in an east London borough has provided early indications that local authority data could be used in verifying people’s identities for the GOV.UK Verify platform

Male head in silhouetteThe project, run by Tower Hamlets and Etive Technologies with the support of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Open Identity Exchange (OIX), has provided evidence that an aggregator such as the Digital Log Book could provide supporting evidence to verify the identities of some people who lack the right ‘digital footprint’ in the private sector.

The OIX has published a report on the project that shows the Digital Log Book, a personalised portal that brings together an individuals’ data used in areas such as social housing, can fill the gap for people in providing evidence for verification.

Earlier research on Verify – which authenticates the identities of people accessing services online from government – has shown that more than 70% of the UK adult population has the data from sources such as utility bills and credit references to provide evidence of their identities to the companies handling the process. But this leaves significant numbers, especially among the unemployed and in social housing, who would struggle to provide evidence.

Interviews

The project involved desktop research and a series of interviews with a small number of Tower Hamlets tenants to test their reactions to the verification process and use of the Log Book.

It showed that data from the local authority and a housing association could fill the gaps in private sector data that can make it difficult for the certified companies in the Verify scheme to confirm identities.

In addition, the people taking part were generally happy to provide housing data to register on Verify. Their concerns around data sharing were focused on banks and the finance sector rather than the local authority, and most assumed that central government would already have the information.

They also saw some value in having a digital identity for access to a range of services, especially if they deal with their local authority in several areas, such as receiving housing, health and social care support.

Using an aggregator for the data – in this case the Digital Log Book – could also make the process easier. It enables users bring together their information and share it as needed with service organisations.

Alpha recommendation

The report recommends that the work should now go to an alpha project with a number of local authorities to explore the use of a Verify-style digital identity for accessing services and transactions.

Stuart Young, managing director of Etive, told UKAuthority: “The model we have put together with GDS shows the quality of data from local authority sources was good enough. Now we’re looking to a live project with a number of local authorities.”

He added: “We think at the moment that to prove the model it would take six to nine months of using live data.”

So far the Digital Log Books have been used most heavily by Birmingham City Council to help housing tenants manage their tenancies and in trials to support older people in getting out and about. Its ability to aggregate relevant local authority data could make the verification process easier for people who have a stronger digital footprint with the state than the private sector.

The discovery project suggests there could be scope for other aggregator mechanisms to play a role in Verify.

Image by Simon Waldherr, CC BY-SA 3.0 through Wikimedia

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