The government expects 600,000 people to register on its identity assurance (IDA) online security programme by the end of this year.
The project by the Cabinet Office will allow citizens to prove who they are online when accessing digital public services.
It has been criticised for taking longer than expected – the original plans targeted Spring 2013 for the first operational services – but bringing 600,000 people on to the system will be a big step forward.
IDA will be provided by five independent identity providers - Digidentity, Experian, Mydex, The Post Office, and Verizon – who have been contracted to develop the service.
Citizens who want to use digital services will first register with one of the IDA providers, then use that identity to securely log in to the relevant government website.
The IDA provider will electronically verify their identity, avoiding the need for government to build a central database of citizen details to authenticate them online.
The first thousand users of IDA are being tested on HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) new pay-as-you-earn tax service, and will eventually be rolled out to millions of taxpayers who use the online self-assessment website.
DVLA digital services such as viewing driving records online are also expected to be among the early adopters of IDA.
Eventually, most digital public services delivered by central government will use IDA so citizens can securely prove their identity online.
Read more on identity assurance
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The government has today issued a tender to purchase the next section of IDA registrations, ready for when the first 600,000 have been used up.
"We’re expecting to use all of these this year, so we’re now starting the process of buying identity provider services for the next phase of the programme. We’re expecting these contracts to start in October 2014 and provide the services required throughout most of 2015."
The new contracts are estimated to be worth £30m.
In October last year, another key element of IDA started testing. The Hub system will set up the competing companies citizens can register with to access digital services. The concept is similar to web users using Facebook or Google accounts to sign into third-party services.
Universal Credit, the government’s flagship welfare reform programme, was initially expected to be one of the first users of IDA, but, following security concerns during its early trials, the Department for Work and Pensions implemented its own security system instead. However, IDA will still play a part in the authentication process for Universal Credit users.