Gabriele Huller - stock.adobe.co

Government extends Gov.uk Verify for a further two years

The government’s Gov.uk Verify identity platform will continue to run until April 2023 while a new identity service is developed

The government has decided to extend its flagship identity platform Gov.uk Verify for another two years, according to the Cabinet Office.

This comes after Cabinet Office Parliamentary secretary Julia Lopez said in March 2021 that “all parties are keen to move on from Verify’s over-elaborate expectations trajectory and cost”.

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

However, in a written statement to Parliament, Lopez said that “while this new system is being developed, many users and connected government services continue to rely on Gov.uk Verify, as has been the case during the pandemic”.

“The government has therefore decided to extend the current Verify service, enabling new users to sign up until April 2022 and existing users to sign in until April 2023,” she said.

The government is currently working on trialling its “discrete digital identity project”, which will create the proof of concept for a new digital identity service for government.

Lopez added that the Government Digital Service (GDS) is “collaborating with other departments to develop the first phase of a new system that will make it easier for people to access government services online”.

“This will enable people to find and access government services more quickly, allow citizens to prove their identity only once – without needing to re-enter information multiple times – and protect people’s privacy throughout,” she said

“People rightly expect from the government a personalised, seamless and intuitive online service of the kind they get from their favourite online retailers. This pilot is an important step in that direction. Work is underway and we have started the co-design with services and departments across government.”

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

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

The Gov.uk Verify programme, which has so far cost around £220m, was originally launched in 2013. 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 around 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 to autumn 2021. The Cabinet Office declined to comment on how the programme will be funded post-2021.

In March 2021, Experian – Gov.uk Verify’s largest identity provider – closed down more than two million accounts, telling users to re-register with one of the two other remaining providers.

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