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UK leaders say new digital ID plan benefits from previous efforts’ failings

UK leaders say new digital ID plan benefits from previous efforts’ failings
 

Creating a single login for central government services is a core task in the United Kingdom’s newest stab at digital transformation.

That and five other missions have been identified as ways to make government services less cumbersome, less costly and more accountable by 2025. A policy paper explaining all six has been published by the Central Digital & Data Office.

Some requirements, such as making all new services use a common approach to being secure by design, underpin each of the missions.

As one part of the newly announced One Login for Government program, the bureaucracy must eliminate duplicated digital ID accounts. Eliminating redundant but differing systems is seen as an integral step in program’s goal of cutting more than £1 billion ($1.2 billion) from the central government’s costs.

That figure, presumably a one-time savings, is what the campaign wants to wring from the budget in part by switching paper-based services and processes to digital workflows. That cannot be achieved unless most if not all citizens access the government online.

It is unclear what role biometrics will play in the program. The same proposed government-wide program in the United States, called Login.gov, does not include biometrics yet.

Under the plan, every central government agency would have a strategy for adopting One Login digital IDs by April 2023. They would have to have One Login live for onboarding in 2024.

The paper’s authors recognize that past efforts have been superficial and lacked specifics. In this plan, the government goes as far as telling agency leaders they should keep digital and data job openings to no more than 9 percent. And more than 90 percent of senior civil servants will be trained for digital and data skills.

Government officials say they cannot expect to reach digital ID goals without hiring a more inclusive workforce. All department heads have to create a plan and set a deadline for having a workforce that reflects the diversity of UK residents.

The government is already expanding on this message. A post in Wired Gov, a government blog, focuses on inclusion in terms of who can access the evolving bureaucracy. The population without a driving license or a passport is large even if 99 percent do have the documents.

The Government Digital Service is examining three tactics – at least one that is anachronous — to confirm a person’s identity.

One method involves security questions, a method that can be tedious and anxiety producing, as well as unsecure. The file of questions, which the person would be expected to know, can grow with time, making it harder to hack a system.

The government also is considering an option that the policy plan should help with: integrating multiple databases to contribute fodder for security questions.

Last, officials are considering the possibility that someone could just vouch for another person. It would be an ancient method of identification verification tied into a 21st century system.

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