Is digital ID still the missing link for the UK’s digital economy?

While progress has been made, the government’s proposed digital ID trust framework needs more work – and the tech industry wants to have more input

In 2020, following the publication of its digital identity whitepaper, TechUK called for industry and government to fully recognise that, to ensure our economic future, the UK must establish a truly digital economy.

TechUK and its members firmly believe the development of a thriving digital economy is predicated on the creation of a secure, flexible and fully interoperable digital ID ecosystem that works for citizens, industry, civil society and government alike.

The UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is now in its third year of development and, while some significant developments have been observed, the industry still finds itself without a clear date by which the UK trust framework will eventually be launched.

This leaves many questions concerning the applicability of the current engagement model employed by DCMS as the development of the framework reaches a crucial stage, while we are missing out on the full potential that digital ID can unlock for the UK economy, including a GDP bump of up to 3% as estimated by consultancy McKinsey.

To this end, one of the recommendations in TechUK’s digital ID whitepaper is that both DCMS and industry stakeholders create a formalised joint working group to accelerate the delivery of the UK trust framework. This revised and streamlined engagement model – with vastly improved communication between the two sets of stakeholders – will ensure that the identification, examination and speedy resolution of the remaining challenges within the framework happen more efficiently, effectively and faster.

It should be clear to everyone concerned with digital identity in the UK that effective regulation must take account of how the industry works to ensure that its provisions are both fit for purpose and reflect the constraints and limitations of the technology.

To ensure this happens, DCMS will need the ministerial backing and dedicated resources necessary to significantly reduce the timeframe for this implementation. The creation of a permanent independent governance body to help both industry and government navigate the technological, societal, regulatory and legislative challenges that will undoubtedly impact the UK digital ID ecosystem as it evolves should be a must-do step in the development of the UK trust framework.

“It should be clear to everyone concerned with digital identity in the UK that effective regulation must take account of how the industry works to ensure that its provisions are both fit for purpose and reflect the constraints and limitations of the technology”
Julian David, TechUK

Accordingly, the ability to further optimise the framework to allow for these changes must be built-in, with a governance structure that includes both public and private stakeholders able to react quickly and effectively to market change.

Both government and industry stakeholders want a fully functioning framework up and running as soon as possible. However, this will not happen unless action is taken in several areas where the industry still sees a lack of certainty as to the way forward, particularly in relation to the timeline associated with the legislative changes required to fully support the trust framework.

The industry wants closer engagement with government to address this challenge. By establishing a joint industry/government taskforce to drive an accelerated delivery of the UK trust framework, we can:

  • Resolve issues around contentious “relying party” flow-down conditions, fraud management and user agreement wordings in the framework.
  • Streamline and optimise the issue resolution process.
  • Remove unnecessary complexity in the framework overall.
  • Deliver clarity on how relevant data regulation reforms will impact the framework.
  • Provide greater clarity on how the UK trust framework and the One Login for Government service will co-exist.

TechUK works closely with its members to ensure their voice is heard by the government and the rest of the industry. If your company operates in the digital identity sector and you want to join us in resolving the UK’s digital identity challenge, get in contact with us. We need diverse voices around the table to ensure we get this done quickly and, more importantly, done right.

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