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GDS targets three million new users of Verify service in next 12 months

Roll-out of the system for logging in to digital public services is taking longer than expected, but user numbers are expected to grow significantly in 2015

The government expects nearly 700,000 people to be using its Verify identity assurance service to log in to digital public services by November 2015, with a further three million expected to sign up in the next 12 months.

Verify is intended to be the standard way for people accessing online government services to prove they are who they say they are, and to log in to complete transactions. The “beta” stage of roll-out for the system, run by the Government Digital Service (GDS), started in October 2013 and has taken much longer than first anticipated.

The original plans targeted spring 2013 for the first operational services. Then in April 2014 GDS said it expected to have 600,000 users by the end of 2014. GDS is now targeting April 2016 for Verify to be fully live.  

So far just six services are using Verify for public transactions, including some tax self-assessment users, updating company car tax and claiming a tax refund. Five other services are in a private testing phase with a small groups of users.

More than 650,000 logins have been successfully completed using Verify so far, with a peak of more than 100,000 in one week in June 2015, according to the Verify performance dashboard.

The biggest boost to user numbers in the next few months is expected to come from an additional 500,000 people using the online self-assessment service. Later in the year, an additional million users are planned for the DVLA’s service to amend driver records, with a further million expected to use a new service for tax-free childcare by July 2016.

“We are currently working with more than 15 other government services planning to connect to Verify in the next year. There is a further group of approximately 20 services that may adopt Verify over the next year but their planning work is still in an early stage,” said Jess McEvoy, Verify engagement lead at GDS, writing in a blog post.

Using Verify involves registering with one of a number of independent identity assurance providers, including the Post Office, Experian and Verizon, which perform a range of checks to confirm the user’s identity, such as referencing credit check databases or the government’s passport system.

Once registered, users can then access government services online by using the login provided by the identity provider to prove they are who they say they are, potentially involving a further check such as sending a unique code to a mobile phone.

The government says this method avoids the need for a central database of user identities, and maintains privacy because the external providers only confirm a citizen’s identity, and have no knowledge of the transaction they intend to perform.

However, many early users of Verify found that providers had difficulty proving their identity – for example, farmers logging in to claim rural subsidy payments who had never had a mortgage or credit card were not referenced by credit check databases.

GDS has said there is always an alternative means to create a Verify identity, even if it means using a telephone-based service initially.

The Cabinet Office is also talking to banks, insurers and retailers in an attempt to establish Verify identity assurance as a national scheme beyond just government services. 

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