Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.
The government’s hip new online verification tool for using digital services is coming out of beta and will gradually start rolling out for more than 50 services starting next week.
It’s going live with eight ID verification partners, with PayPal ultimately being rejected at this stage.
Soon, everyone will have to get verified by one of these companies in order to prove their identity when using digital government services.
The challenge has been to create a tool that is rigorous enough to verify people, while spotting if someone is trying to commit fraud.
During the beta phase, more than 500,000 people have verified their identity and from a success rate as low as 30% in 2014, the service has reached an average of 70% this year.
Janet Hughes, identity assurance programme director, explains: “We haven’t reached 90% yet. This is an ambitious aim, especially for a service that’s not designed for 100% of journeys to be completed.
“As no one’s built anything like GOV.UK Verify before, we don’t know if it’s the right target. However, we’ll carry on working towards it and demonstrating ongoing improvement in the coming months – we have lots of work planned that we think will help us make progress.”
The tool has had to pass the Digital by Default Service Standard Assessment – around safety, security, usability and easiness to improve – which means it can now go live.
It will open its doors next week with a number of key services.
In total, more than 50 government services will eventually ask users to prove who they are using GOV.UK Verify.
Given that the latest ONS figures show that just over 10% of the British public -5.3m people – have still never used the internet, there are immediate, wider challenges facing ‘digital by default’.
The group with the largest growth in internet users is women aged over 75 – up 169% from 2011 – but still less than a third were recent users in 2016.
On top of this, 25% of disabled adults have never used the internet.
It’s often the groups that are most likely to be digitally excluded that are also those that need to access government services most urgently.
GOV.UK will have to ensure people don’t fall through the cracks.