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Government seeks supplier for UK digital identity project

Work on the UK digital identity project will be centred around the Gov.uk app, which is expected to be the new common check for citizen services

The UK government is seeking a technology supplier to develop a new common digital identity (DI) check for access to government services.

Under a contract worth up to £4.8m, the supplier will be working with the Government Digital Service (GDS) for two years in the delivery of the DI solution based on the Gov.uk app. The consolidation of citizen access to public services is part of the GDS strategy published in May, which outlines priorities until 2024.

In addition, the supplier will support GDS in its strategic goal of growing its permanent app engineering capability by attracting and training civil servants to support app-based products in the long term. The vendor will also support discovery research around the value and requirements around app-based government information and service delivery.

To support identity checks, the app will require the incorporation of near-field communication (NFC) capability to scan documents. GDS is also looking for a supplier that can use services within apps such as biometrics, as well as “strong evidence of experience and understanding” of the digital identity market and experience in delivering digital ID services and apps.

While discovery on web-based identity aspects has been completed under the alpha stage of the project, GDS noted that the team will be shortly working on the beta phase. Discovery teams are now investigating the native app component of the Gov.uk journey and how an app could complement service provision.

The GDS search for a supplier to support the UK digital identity project follows the announcement by Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay about the government’s plans to create the Gov.uk app as a means to provide a better user experience and streamline access to services.

The new initiative is a departure from GDS’s previous anti-app stance and iOS driven by the sharp increase in downloads of the NHS app and the Covid-19 contact-tracing app, which have contributed to the government’s decision to adopt a single digital identity project.

In the request for proposals for the app, GDS mentions that the Gov.uk works well on mobile and points out that at least 75% of its traffic in 2020 came via that channel. It now needs to determine the evolution of that experience while offering new app-based solutions.

The search for a partner to help develop a digital identity app emerges amid concerns over the creation of a centralised platform mapping personal identity verification data onto the various services provided by the government.

According to the government, use of the Gov.uk app will be optional and the development of the tool will be governed by “robust data protection principles” to enable citizens to stay in control of their data.

In June, GDS introduced a new measurement approach intended to enhance the experience of users of the Gov.uk platform, which will collect detailed anonymous data if users consent to use of that data via cookies for analytics purposes.

The development of the Gov.uk follows the introduction of One Login, the government’s new digital identity system aimed at replacing the failed Gov.uk Verify system, which is expected to cost up to £400m.

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