Gov.UK digital ID service has fraction of intended users and verifies less than half successfully

The UK government’s National Audit Office has slammed the Gov.UK Verify authentication platform in a report, saying it will not reach its goal of serving 25 million users by 2020, and its performance has consistently failed to meet the standards of each business case. At the beginning of February 2019, Government Digital Service (GDS) reported a 48 percent verification success rate.

Only 3.6 million people have been verified by the service as of February 2019, which has undercut the GDS’s intent for it to be largely self-funding by March of 2018. The report estimates approximately 5.4 million users will have signed up by 2020 at the current pace of adoption. GDS has confirmed 5 18-month contracts with commercial identity providers to carry Verify through March 2020, with a combined spending cap of £21.5 million (US$28.3 million), after which the private sector is supposed to take over responsibility for the program.

Industry group techUK recently called on the government to establish a national policy for a digital identity ecosystem covering both the private and public sectors.

The 32-page report (PDF) by the Comptroller and Auditor General lauds the government’s attempt to deal with the growing threat of fraud, and strengthen online identity while maintaining privacy. GDS helped define standards, build the platform, and develop the private sector market, but with little ultimate success.

“After struggling to build demand within the public sector for Verify, government has now decided to hand over control of Verify to providers from 2020 with the aim of encouraging its use for non-government services, to deliver wider benefits and build scale that may benefit government in the longer term through lower prices,” the report concludes.

“Unfortunately, Verify is also an example of many of the failings in major programmes that we often see, including optimism bias and failure to set clear objectives. Even in the context of GDS’s redefined objectives for the programme, it is difficult to conclude that successive decisions to continue with Verify have been sufficiently justified.”

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