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TechUK is fed up with the British government’s plodding digital ID efforts

TechUK is fed up with the British government’s plodding digital ID efforts

A large and diverse association of UK technology companies is fed up with their government when it comes to the creation of biometrics-backed digital identities. All efforts, private and public, have come to little after two decades of missed opportunities, according to techUK.

A new report from techUK bluntly asks: “What more does the government need to persuade it that its current stance is not working and that a new strategy is urgently needed?”

Effective digital IDs will be a significant factor in nations’ ability to achieve economic and social goals, according to the document. Of course, digital IDs would be a boon for many of the group’s members, too.

The UK’s national government has to step in now to create, or at least foster, a market for IDs which can be used to efficiently access government services and grease private transactions, the report’s authors claim.  It must also establish legal footing for biometric authentication.

And while it should go without saying, people have to be given IDs that work flawlessly for public and private transactions.

Government leaders also must make sure there is “real competition” in ID service provisioning. Ways must be found for startups to realistically compete with the multinationals that otherwise will dominate with market bulk rather than innovation.

Pointing to continued Brexit uncertainty and the coronavirus cut no ice with techUK’s leadership, who took up this battle in 2018.

The organization in February 2019 recommended that the government take nine steps to make digital IDs a reality. Four recommendations have been inadequately addressed and no action has been taken on five, according to the report.

No “competent independent authority for digital identity” has been nominated, for example.

Nor has the government created “a lawful basis” for the use of biometric identity and authentication. This is needed to buttress related large-scale legislation designed to encourage the formation of a fully digital economy, the authors write.

The partially implemented items all are hobbled by “slow and opaque” execution.

For example, techUK called on the government to create a policy that encourages a functioning digital ID system that applies equally to public and private organizations, but the effort has become mired.

The Government Digital Service is debating a digital ID trust framework, but drafts have been released to too few stakeholders.

TechUK has more demands now, besides recommended actions on previous points made. Its leaders are calling for ripping out laws that require face-to-face ID and paper documentation to authenticate people.

Also, access to government databases has to be opened up to organizations using relevant APIs be regulated by the government and certified. There is movement here, but it is, again, too slow, according to the report.

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