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Interim Gov.uk Verify boss sets out future priorities

Jess McEvoy looks at potential for re-use of the government’s identity assurance platform in both public and private sector

Gov.uk Verify’s interim director, Jess McEvoy, has set out plans to use the identity assurance platform outside central government.

McEvoy took over from former Verify director Janet Hughes this week, after Hughes followed Government Digital Service (GDS) chief executive Stephen Foreshew-Cain out of the door.

In a blog post outlining her priorities for the coming months, McEvoy said she would continue work to use Verify in the public sector – both in local councils and the NHS.

“We’re planning to conduct a series of discovery projects with local authorities, looking at how we might extend Gov.uk Verify in this area,” she said. “In the autumn, we’ll be announcing which services we’ll be trialling with Gov.uk Verify.”

Difficulties ahead

The identity assurance platform, which went live in May 2016, works by asking users to set up an account with one of a selection of third-party identity providers, such as the Post Office, Experian or Verizon. Each company then asks the user to prove who they are, using available data such as their credit history or by allowing electronic access to documents such as passports. 

Under the leadership of Janet Hughes, GDS had already carried out a pilot in Warwickshire, joining up the local authority, Verify and a service from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to allow people to apply for a Blue Badge online

Discovery events, in collaboration with the Local Digital Coalition, have been taking place for some months. So far, 41 councils have been involved in the events.

Read more about GDS and Verify

However, one of the main challenges arising from the discovery events was cost. 

“In some cases, parts of the service are entirely outsourced, so it was difficult for those authorities to estimate the total cost (both in terms of time and money) for those parts of the service,” an earlier blog post stated. 

No local authorities were able to provide a definitive cost for every step of the service.  

McEvoy said GDS was also building a programme to “lead the team through compliance, quality and maturity of privacy delivery within GDS and across the certified companies and other organisations associated with Gov.uk Verify”.

The GDS team is also working on making technical improvements to the service, such as improving the hub’s ability to handle increased traffic.

McEvoy said the government was committed to the maximum “possible re-use of Gov.uk Verify across the public sector and beyond”.

However, sources have previously suggested to Computer Weekly that Verify’s future is far from secure, with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investing in building its own identity system in parallel to Verify.

On 22 August, Computer Weekly also reported that the new head of GDS, Kevin Cunnington, had brought in several former colleagues from DWP to look at the organisation’s plans and assess key GDS responsibilities, such as delivery of digital platforms and central controls over Whitehall’s digital projects and IT spending. 

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