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Government bids final goodbye to Verify

Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary Julia Lopez confirms launch of “discrete” successor to Verify

Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary Julia Lopez has confirmed the government is scrapping its flagship digital identity programme Verify for good.

In a speech to the Investing and Saving Alliance (TISA), Lopez said that the government is ready to move on from the identity platform.

“While the best elements of Verify will be reused where appropriate, all parties are keen to move on from Verify’s over-elaborate expectations trajectory and cost,” she said.

The £175m Verify programme was originally launched in 2013, and in 2016, the government announced plans to have 25 million users of Verify by 2020, with every department using the system.

However, in early 2017, HMRC was the first to break ranks, and today its Government Gateway system has about 16 million users, compared with less than half that number registered with Verify.

Funding for the programme was originally due to end in April 2020, but due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the treasury decided to extend funding for a further 18 months.

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, the government is now making another attempt to create a common digital identity system to be used across all online public services, mandating that departments comply.

Read more about government and digital identity

  • Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove writes to Whitehall departments mandating the use of a new digital identity system that will allow citizens to be tracked across the website.
  • The government’s draft framework, which aims to set out rules for the use of digital identities, will be tested with industries, services, users and organisations ahead of a final version being published.
  • The lack of reliable digital ID services in the UK is limiting the country’s digital infrastructure potential, according to a report on digital identity, which also recommends the government to clarify the future of Verify.

In February 2021, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove wrote to departments, saying that “all public-facing central government services” would have to migrate onto the new digital identity system”, and that all legacy systems will be phased out.

Lopez said that the government is working on a “discrete digital identity pilot project”, which will create the proof of concept for a new digital identity service for government.

“This will be led and coordinated by the Government Digital Service (GDS), co-designed with Whitehall departments and public services, and be largely government-built and government-owned. Initially, it will connect only to a small number of services but will have the capability to grow rapidly once the scheme is judged to be on track,” she said.

“Our overall goal for digital identity is to develop a successor both to Verify and, in time, other digital identity systems that are currently used across government.

“Good progress on our pilot is expected in coming months, with joint discovery work due to accelerate further.”

TISA, the organisation Lopez delivered her speech to, has been leading work on digital identity for the financial services industry. The organisation has a vision to create a single digital identity that meets regulatory requirements and is “positioned to consumers as the prime means for securely identifying themselves to UK financial services”.

Building trust

In February 2021, the government launched a draft digital identity trust framework, which aimed to allow key stakeholders such as industries, services, organisations and users to test and provide feedback on the document before a final version is published.

Once the framework, which was developed by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is finalised, it will be brought into law.

Lopez said the framework sets out government’s vision for the future use of digital identities and will make it easier for people to “use and reuse a digital identity across organisational boundaries”.

“I know that GDS, which was closely involved in developing the trust framework, will collaborate closely with DCMS colleagues to make sure that the trust framework, when finalised, allows everyone, including the digitally excluded, to access essential services, should they choose to do so using digital identity technology, and that its standards and rules also remain aligned with industries and sectors regulated by the government, such as financial services,” she said. Accounts

The Verify successor programme will underpin GDS’s Accounts programme, which aims to allow people to sign into government services online and get a personal experience tailored to their needs.   

“Our vision is that people have ‘One Login For Government’ that is simple and safe to use, and available to everyone; which makes it easier for people to find and access government services; allows citizens to prove their identity only once – if they agree to share their data between services and departments; and which also protects people’s privacy,” said Lopez.

The Accounts programme received £32m a funding boost in the Spending Review in November 2020.

The premise behind Accounts came from user research which found that users had “certain expectations” from a account which wasn’t always met.

“This will tilt the dynamic: from the user having to seek out relevant information to the government being able to push targeted advice and information in their direction,” said Lopez.

In September 2019, when plans for personalisation for users of were first announced, the Cabinet Office was adamant it was not intended to introduce a means for tracking individual users as they interact with online services.

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