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Cunnington: “Very concrete” plans mapped for 25m user Verify expansion

Neil Merrett Published 22 March 2017

GDS has set itself internal targets for the numbers of ID assurance users it hopes to have at central and local government level up to 2020; considers potential extension of Verify brand


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has mapped out its plans and key targets for expanding the user base for GOV.UK Verify to 25m within three years through both central and local government adoption, as well as supporting certain private sector functions.

In an interview with Government Computing , GDS director general Kevin Cunnington touched on Whitehall’s ambitions to build up use of its identity assurance platform and the potential expansion of the Verify brand to a wider number of functions.

He said that although not publicly available, a plan with internal targets already exists with regards to how GDS intends to meet its aims to build user participation through the platform as set out in the government transformation strategy.

Cunnington noted that by 2020, ten years after the foundation of the GOV.UK platform, there would be hundreds of digital services live across government that would range across functions relating to education, work, retirement and pensions.

“So you can imagine, if you have hundreds of services to interact with government, then you obviously want some kind of consistency with how you identify yourself to those services,” he said.

Part of Whitehall's strategy to build common platforms that can be used by different departments, GOV.UK Verify aims to allow users to select one of several pre-chosen companies to perform a check on their identity in order to access online services at a level of assurance (LOA) 2 security standard.

Cunnington argued that Verify’s importance within the delayed government transformation strategy, which set out broad aims for GDS in the coming years, stemmed from a need to avoid multiple levels of identity assurance that could cause confusion among the public.

“There is a very specific plan right through from now until 2020 that shows where all these numbers will come from, and as well as sticking with Level of Assurance (LOA2) that offers reasonable levels of identity, we are also introducing a lower level - LOA1.  This is again part of a GCHQ-supported standard, but it’s an easier bar for people to reach because not all services require you to so formally identify yourself,” he said.

The tax domain was one area Cunnington suggested where this lower level of ID assurance may be relevant to increase the number of Verify users.

GDS’ director general added that a “very concrete” plan existed that had individually broken down GOV.UK Verify user targets by number with regard to local and central government services, as well as private sector functions that will allow government to meet its aim of achieving 25m users by 2020.

Verify functions as one of two identity solutions presently in use by Whitehall departments. The other technology, a legacy system known as the Government Gateway that was introduced in 2001 to allow businesses and agents to identify themselves for access to Whitehall services, is presently in the process of being redeveloped by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

HMRC, which took over management of decommissioning the existing system from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has said a replacement gateway technology will support business, agency and individual users from 2018.

HMRC originally noted that other departments would continue to have to use Verify to ascertain the identities of individual users at the behest of the Cabinet Office, with the gateway handling businesses and agency needs.

The department has since explicitly backed using Verify exclusively too, saying it viewed the platform as the "single identification service for individuals".

In considering the separate functionality of Verify and Government Gateway for individuals and business respectively, Cunnington was asked whether there would always be two different types of identity systems for Whitehall.

“It would be nice if they become a citizen brand called Verify,” he said of the two solutions.

“But obviously, certifying businesses or verifying a business is different from verifying citizens.”

Related articles:

Cunnington: “Very concrete” plans mapped for 25m user Verify expansion

Verify local government pilots move to alpha

GOV.UK Verify, NHS numbers and the 25 million user challenge

Delayed GDS strategy unveiled in wider Whitehall reform plan

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