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GDS looks for councils to pilot Gov.uk Verify

The Government Digital Service plans to launch two pilot projects and is looking for councils to trial the identity assurance service free of charge

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is looking for “eligible councils” interested in piloting Gov.uk Verify for use in two pilot projects, with the aim of developing a commercial model to be used across local authorities.

Over the past few months, GDS – in collaboration with the Local Digital Coalition – have run a series of discovery events with local councils. The Verify team said in a blog post that they are now ready to begin the pilot work, and aims to launch the first pilots in October 2016.

Based on the discovery work, the Verify team have decided to use applications for older people’s consessionary travel passes and residents’ parking permits as pilot projects.

“This is because they are services that lots of local authorities are looking to transform, and both could benefit from using Gov.uk Verify,” the Verify team said.

“We’re likely to focus on the first-time application for these services, but participating councils will get to collectively decide their highest priority at the beginning of the project.”

The identity assurance platform, which went live in May 2016, works by asking users to set up an account with one of a selection of third-party identity providers, such as the Post Office, Experian or Verizon. Each company then asks the user to prove who they are, using available data such as their credit history or by allowing electronic access to documents such as passports. 

Under the leadership of Janet Hughes, who left GDS in August 2016, the organisation had already carried out a pilot in Warwickshire, joining up the local authority, Verify and a service from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to allow people to apply for a Blue Badge online

Verify free of charge

One of the main challenges arising from the discovery events was cost. 

“In some cases, parts of the service are entirely outsourced, so it was difficult for those authorities to estimate the total cost – both in terms of time and money – for those parts of the service,” an earlier blog post stated. 

However, as part of the pilot, GDS will offer Verify free of charge.

The organisation claims to be aiming to work with “as many councils as we can to meet our requirements” and transform the pilots to an end-to-end service.

GDS promises to manage the pilot project and track progress, giving advice and guidance to the councils, and helping develop business cases to support the “transformation of this service and others”.

Read more about GDS and Verify

GDS will also provide integration support and all pilot outcomes will be published on GDS’s project page.

Councils wanting to be part of the pilot will have to meet a set of criteria set our by GDS, including agreeing to transparency, having a dedicated council team with a single point of contact and agree to the products created as part of the project remain open source.

Other criteria include having buy-in from senior management, including the chief information security officer or senior information risk owner, who will have to sign up to a project agreement, as well as agreeing to manage the service in-house and be able to change any part of the service throughout the pilot. If suppliers are needed to make the changes, councils need to get them on board before beginning the pilot.

GDS also requires councils to commit to implement Verify “in accordance with the technology code of practice, the identity assurance principles and the code of interoperability”. However, they will be adapted to suit local government.

Former Verify director Janet Hughes told Computer Weekly earlier in 2016 that the goal for Verify is to become the standard way for citizens to prove their identity across a range of services.

“The vision is that people think about having an identity account in the same way they have a bank account, and being able to use it to access all sorts of services, such as opening a bank account, interacting with their local authority, checking their health records, booking a flight and getting a new mobile phone contract,” Hughes told Computer Weekly in April.

Verify has received criticism in some quarters, and Computer Weekly’s sources have previously suggested that Verify’s future is far from secure, with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investing in building its own identity system in parallel to Verify.

Read more on IT for government and public sector

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