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GDS secures up to £400m funding for One Login digital identity project

HM Treasury agrees to spending review bid from Cabinet Office to create the new single sign-on system for government over the next three years

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has secured up to £400m it requested in the latest spending review to develop a new digital identity system over the next three years.

The Autumn Budget documents published last week only said that the Cabinet Office had been given “funding to progress development of ‘One Login’, a new system to allow users to access government services – from paying taxes to registering births – through a single portal”, but did not include any figures for how much was to be allocated.

However, Computer Weekly understands that, while final details have yet to be concluded, HM Treasury has agreed to a budget in the region of £400m for the One Login project, which is expected to become the common single sign-on system used across the Gov.uk website. Computer Weekly first revealed in September that GDS had estimated the cost of One Login at between £300m-£400m.

The money will be paid across three years, and it is believed that funding for years two and three will be dependent on progress of the project. A first public prototype is due to be available in April 2022.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We have secured a considerable funding commitment to develop single sign-on over the next three years.”

GDS has in the past had to make repeated requests to the Treasury for additional budget to continue development of the failed £220m Gov.uk Verify digital identity system – which will be replaced by One Login.

The new system will be mandated for use across all government departments – although it will still be able to coexist with other options where they are available. For example, HM Revenue & Customs and the Universal Credit service allow citizens to use the Government Gateway system to log in – and with about 16 million registered accounts on Gateway, the departments may wish to maintain that existing method for some time yet.

One Login will combine single sign-on and digital identity verification with Gov.uk Accounts – a system recently trialled to allow Gov.uk users to be tracked across the website so services can be personalised to their needs. GDS hopes this will make it easier for citizens to access online public services for life events where delivery responsibilities are spread across several departments, such as having a baby or setting up a business.

GDS will also develop a Gov.uk app for the first time, which is expected to allow users to set up their digital identity and log in from their smartphone by using mobile tools they are already familiar with, such as biometrics and scanning of passport chips.

The new system is being developed in the cloud, running on Amazon Web Services.

The project will be run by GDS director of digital identity,Natalie Jones, who took up the role in September. Jones was previously at the Home Office, where she was the digital lead on the EU Settlement Scheme and, most recently, delivery director on the Digital Services at the Border programme.

The most widely used digital identity system in the public sector is NHS Login, used to access the NHS App, which includes the Covid-19 pass that proves an individual’s vaccination status. According to NHS Digital, NHS Login now has 28 million registered users – about half the adult population of the UK.

Gov.uk Verify is currently scheduled to be closed to new users by the end of 2022 – eight months later than previously intended – and shut down completely in April 2023.

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