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Scotland declares digital identity pilot a success, UK’s service faces latest call to shut down

Scotland declares digital identity pilot a success, UK’s service faces latest call to shut down

The UK government’s digital identity service has returned to its usual pattern of negative feedback and calls for its closure, while Scotland’s government, which rejected the service from the outset, believes it has found a better way to authenticate people for government services.

A digital identity prototype trialed by Scotland’s government has been declared a success by Policy Lead for Digital Identity Gavin Ross, Computer Weekly reports.

The 10-week test of a system developed by Mydex CIC has demonstrated that the public understands the use of two-factor authentication and interoperable use of digital identity credentials for different services, according to a report from the company and the government. In the test the prototype was used for opening bank accounts with data from the Young Scot National Entitlement Card and for faster applications to the Independent Living Fund.

The project considered several different authentication methods, including device-based fingerprint biometrics or facial recognition, one-time codes, authenticator apps and dynamic push notifications. Hardware tokens and knowledge-based verification were rejected prior to the prototype’s development.

Whether biometrics should be used, according to the report, comes down to the requirements of the specific application and the preference of the user. Configurability is therefore identified as an important characteristic for any final digital identity model.

Users generally understood the benefit to themselves in terms of reducing form-filling, but were less aware of the benefits of verified attributes for service provider processes, and the speed and security advantages they could gain from them. The safeguards protecting data security and user control were also not well understood, according to the assessment.

Digital Identity Scotland is moving forward with the project, with a planned Beta service.

UK government’s Gov.uk Verify program, meanwhile, should be closed as quickly as possible, according to a new report commissioned by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and reported in a separate blog post on Computer Weekly.

The Verify service received a boost earlier this year from people signing up online to government financial support during the lockdown, and given an extra 18 months of funding. Some of that funding appears to have been spent on a report on Verify’s future by Cabinet Office IT advisor Simon Orebi Gann.

Computer Weekly points out that at least 20 reviews had already been conducted, mostly drawing the same conclusion as the latest one, that the service should immediately be reduced to its minimum requirements and then shut down as soon after the original April 2021 target as possible. The publication also notes that private sector stakeholders have been frustrated with GDS’ reluctance to follow expert advice.

The report is only an internal discussion paper, and may not influence policy. It says neither of Verify’s lofty ambitions of improving government services and boosting the private sector digital economy were met.

“The vision lacked realistic, deliverable objectives and failed to capture the full requirements of user departments,” the report reads. “As a consequence, the major users of Verify have funded programmes underway to replace it with separate solutions.”

Since the report was published, GDS has announced the new Gov.uk Accounts, which is intended to provide a single login for access to all government services.

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