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Government stays firm on target of 25 million Verify users by 2020

Cabinet Office has confirmed it is sticking to its target of having 25 million Verify users by 2020, despite government projects watchdog calling for project to be scrapped

Minister for implementation Oliver Dowden has confirmed the government is still aiming for 25 million users of its Verify identity platform by 2020, despite calls to cancel the project.  

Earlier this month, Computer Weekly reported that the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) recommended the project was terminated, and that government departments are reluctant to keep funding Verify.

This is not the first time the project has been criticised. The government’s identity assurance platform has struggled with delays and low uptake, and identity experts have strongly suggested Verify needs a major overhaul.

Despite calls for the project to be scrapped, Cabinet Office and the Government Digital Service (GDS) continue to plough on with the identity assurance platform.

Answering a parliamentary question from junior shadow Cabinet Office minister Jo Platt on Verify usage implementation minister Oliver Dowden, who is responsible for GDS, said the government plans to “continue to enable individuals to prove their identity online and to access government services securely and safely”.

“We continue to work towards 25 million people having a Verify account by 2020,” he said.

The government is understood to have spent more than £130m on the project, however, so far, there are only a little over 2.7 million people having registered for Verify, and less than half (44%) of all users attempting to create a Verify identity are successful. Currently, Verify is used by 15 government services plus three currently in private beta.

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Labour's Jo Platt said it’s clear that Verify is on the verge of collapse.

"The government’s handling of the Verify programme has been shambolic. Having spent years and millions of pounds of public money developing the system, the government can’t even convince their own departments to register – let alone the 25 million users they aspire to,” she told Computer Weekly.

“Not only is it becoming increasingly apparent the government will fail to reach their target registration numbers, those who have tried to register have also experienced an unacceptable number of failures. The government must therefore now review its viability.”

Earlier this year, the then head of Verify, Nic Harrison, who left the role last month (August 2018), admitted the government would not reach the 25 million target on its own, but would have to rely on accounts being created by private services too.

Expansion plans

Dowden said in a parliamentary question that the government is continuing to “explore the applications for Verify for secure citizen identity verification in both the wider public and private sectors”, and they are in discussions with the current identity providers (IDPs) “over plans to expand Verify into non-government services”.

However, the current contract with the IDPs is due to end this month, and although the IDPs are due to support the current services for 12 months after the contract ends, sources told Computer Weekly extra funding would be required to pay the companies during that year.

So far, there has been no announcement on procuring new IDPs, or extending the current contracts.

Earlier this year, GDS lost responsibility for the wider digital identity policy to Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The government is now working on a review of digital identity policy in the UK.

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