Encounters of the Tech Kind: Think Digital Identity for Government
We're back with another of our Encounters of the Tech Kind - this time talking digital identity!
What better way to learn about Digital Identity in Government than at Think Digital Partners’ 2018 conference? As myself and Danny are still relatively new to Advice Cloud, this was the perfect opportunity to attend our first conference.
The event followed on from a conference earlier in the year with the aim of exploring the UK government’s future approach towards Digital Identity. The main goal: to establish a single system of identity verification that can be used universally. We gained insight from a number of memorable speakers such as Cheryl Stevens MBE and the BBC’s lead identity architect Colin Brown. Here are the highlights from the day, with information about the Government’s Digital Identity procurement plans… definitely worth a read!
The most significant themes that arose throughout the day surrounded trust and interoperability. That is, all speakers agreed that the UK are still yet to develop a universally trusted digital method of identity verification that can be applied across multiple platforms and services. The discussions that ensued involved if, how and when this vision will become a reality.
To start, we heard from the chair of the event, David Bicknell, who introduced the first keynote speaker. As well as providing us with an entertaining start to the day, Chief Analyst at GlobalData Gary Barnett noted that when it comes to establishing citizens’ digital identities, government must fix the ‘innards’ of verification processes, as opposed to adding more layers on top of existing systems. Basically, when it comes to digital identity verification, we need to start from scratch. But how can this be achieved?
The following speakers, Andrew Elliot (Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport) and identity expert Julian White (Cabinet Office), agreed, adding that the government’s aim is to create frictionless trust between identity services. In other words, once an individual’s identity is confirmed through a diligent and trusted process, this digital verification will be applicable across different services.
They also emphasised the importance of collaboration between public and private sector in digital identity services. Purchasing real estate is a great example – it’s safe to say that the current processes of liaising with estate agents, homeowners, mortgage advisors and banks are tedious and repetitive. So, Andrew and Julian described the impact than an interoperable digital identity verification system would have in speeding this up. Basically, you would be able to verify that you are who you say you are once, and this verification could be used by all organisations involved in your property buying process.
The current digital ID framework will be open for 18 months in total, so 2020 will be the first opportunity for an interoperable public and private sector digital ID framework to be provided. This is one for tech suppliers to keep an eye on!
Next up, we heard from Deputy Director at the DWP’s Identity & Trust services, Cheryl Stevens MBE. She drew attention to the significance of trust in digital identity services, especially when it comes to vulnerable and marginalised people. Crucially, she also mentioned how face-to-face and telephony services are still essential when working with citizens, and we must consider how these will be incorporated into digital identity.
Up until this point, the speakers highlighted the needs of government in successfully producing and maintaining digital identity systems. The second half on the day focussed more on what these solutions could involve…
Anthony Wilson, product manager the NHS Digital’s Identity Services, told us about the existing universal data systems within the NHS – involving staff smart cards. Of course, there is still a lot of room for improvement, and the NHS are currently using real case studies within various NHS organisations, in order to create an end-to-end digital ID service that actually works in those settings.
As well as this, the online Government Gateway service is soon to be replaced by more efficient online systems, driving licenses are set to become digital, and as noted by Director of WorldReach Jon Payne, we are moving towards a virtual UK border by using trusted biometrics in travel. Imagine a world in which facial recognition systems are able to instantly pull up your digital identity and travel credentials…it’s coming sooner than you think!
All of these developments show how the government is gearing up for a digital identity revolution. The question is, once all of these services are digital, will they become trusted and interoperable?
Relatedly, Carol Tullo, senior consultant and legal counsel at the Trust Bridge, drew attention to a major barrier in the development of digital ID services: the ownership of identity. Individuals need to feel comfortable about who they are sharing their data with, and – in a time when data protection is at the forefront of public concern – the risks surrounding oversharing data cannot be ignored. So, from the citizens’ perspective, how can we develop a universal method of identity certification that is both owned and controlled by the person whose data that is?
In answer to these questions: watch this space. There are still a lot of hurdles to be crossed when it comes to establishing trusted, interoperable digital identity services. However, the important questions are being addressed, and we may be set for a digital identity revolution sooner than expected! In the meantime, suppliers should keep an eye out for any opportunities relevant to digital ID… take advantage of our framework alerts for information about where and when they may arise.