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Scottish government to pilot digital identity platform in early 2023

Pilot of Scotland’s digital identity platform will be run in partnership with Disclosure Scotland, using secure sign-on and identity verification

The Scottish government plans to begin trialling its own digital identity platform early next year, running a pilot with Disclosure Scotland.

The pilot will allow users of Disclosure Scotland’s services – the equivalent of the Disclosure and Barring Service in England and Wales – to use secure sign-on, providing users with one set of login details to access multiple services, as well as online identity verification.

Speaking at the Think Digital for Government conference today (17 November), Gavin Ross, the Scottish government’s policy lead for digital identity, said the pilot will be running a minimum viable product, and following on from that, “our focus is on exploring how we support Social Security Scotland and, indeed, health services”.

Ross added: “There are new benefits and new products being rolled out by Social Security Scotland all the time, and we are also in discussions with our colleagues in health about how we can support the services they provide.”

Plans for a Scottish digital identity platform have been in the works for the past five years. In 2018, the government launched a short alpha phase of its online identity assurance programme, which led to a digital identity prototype being tested in 2020. The prototype testing was a success and Scotland forged ahead with plans for its own digital identity platform.

In 2021, it awarded a contract to Sott Logic, headed by former Government Digital Service (GDS) boss Stephen Foreshew-Cain, and the supplier began the project to create the digital identity platform in April 2021.

“We had to look at the landscape around what was available for digital identity services,” said Ross. “We looked at Gov.uk’s Verify programme and felt it didn’t quite meet the needs of Scottish citizens to access public services. We were also aware, in the landscape, that the UK financial services were looking to do an awful lot of things in their own area, and perhaps viewed what the government was doing as maybe a threat to returning customers into their business model.”

The Scottish government’s digital strategy also played a key part in the development of the country’s digital identity project.

Read more about Scotland and digital identity

  • Scott Logic is working on a two-year project to create a digital identity service through a suite of common platforms that will be adopted across Scottish government.
  • Digital Identity Scotland’s 10-week test of its digital identity prototype finds that users understand the concept of two-factor authentication and using the same credentials across services.
  • Scottish government plans flexible approach to online identity providers as it aims to launch alpha phase of is online identity assurance programme in August 2018.

“It’s a part of a common approach to digital services,” said Ross. “We’re part of the same division that’s also delivering payments and cloud solutions. Our objective is to make it quicker and easier for people to apply to Scottish public services. We’re very much adopting a standards-based approach, as you would expect, built around the core principles of choice and control and security.”

The Scottish digital identity programme focuses on three components: secure sign-on through two-factor authentication, identity verification, and an attribute store.

Currently, the identity verification uses photo identification, such as driving licence or passport, but the government also plans to include EU biometric residency cards in that mix, and is looking at expanding this to include knowledge-based verification, such as government-held data or voting data.

The attributes store, or locker, where users can store verified information in their own space and be able to re-use it to apply to other services, will not be part of the initial pilot, but is intended to be introduced further down the line.

“We’re looking outside of Scotland, interested to see how we can support people coming from abroad, and also looking at what’s happening with the EU system quite closely,” said Ross. “And we’re really interested in the possibility of giving people the option to share verified identity information between platforms.”

He added that the Scottish government is also working closely with colleagues in the UK government who are developing the One Login digital identity platform.

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