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One Login digital identity project makes headway

Government services are lining up to work with the GDS on its One Login digital identity system, according to its director of digital identity, Natalie Jones

The Government Digital Service’s (GDS) digital identity system, One Login, is now in beta testing, and the organisation is working on making identity checks more inclusive.

In an update on the GDS blog, its director of digital identity, Natalie Jones, said the three-year, £400m project – to create a digital identity system to be mandated for use across government departments – has made progress.

In March 2022, GDS advertised for partners to help them beta test the identity service, and Jones said in the blog post that GDS now has “products in beta, a packed dance card for services who want to work with us, and we are well on our way to building up the product suite that our government partners have asked for”. “We’ve got an initial version of our browser-based route – with a passport check and knowledge-based verification – in limited beta with our partners, the Disclosure and Barring Service,” she said.

“We’ve got an identity-checking app for people with driving licences in beta with HMRC for Government Gateway users, and credible plans for passports and Biometric Residence Permits to be added soon,” said Jones. “We’re actively working on digital vouching, a face-to-face route and new knowledge-based verification question sets that leverage government data – all of which will make identity checks more inclusive.”

There are plenty of digital identity services already in use across government departments. One example is HMRC’s Government Gateway, which, after NHS Login, is the second-most-used digital identity service in government, with around 16 million registered accounts. Although the One Login system will be mandated for use by departments, it will also be able to coexist with other services, such as Gateway.

Jones said that validating someone’s identity so it can be used to access services is a “solved problem” across government.

“Patterns and processes have grown up over time, and people are able to prove their identity, even though their experiences might be suboptimal, and they might face different hurdles and repetitive steps for different services,” she said. “But here’s the thing: no one department or service is doing it all well.”

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Because there are so many different processes and systems in place across departments, the GDS has undertaken analysis work to “map existing processes to the Good Practice Guide framework and understand the relative levels of assurance they need”, she added.

One of the key issues with One Login’s predecessor, Gov.uk Verify, was that less than half of those who tried to set up a digital identity were able to do so.

“One thing that does seem to be consistently important is the percentage of eligible users who make it through an identity verification route successfully,” said Jones.

In parallel with the work on One Login, wider work on digital identity across government is also taking place. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced in March 2022 that it is setting up an interim governing body for digital identities, the Office for Digital Identities and Attributes, to regulate the identity market.

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