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Rapid digital identity certifications in UK indicate pent-up demand: DCMS

‘Wait and see’ for public education
Rapid digital identity certifications in UK indicate pent-up demand: DCMS

A new accreditation system for digital identity products is leading to the rapid approval of new products, indicating high demand. Regulators are collaborating to understand what digital identity means for their remits, and for public education on using and trusting digital identity it is a matter of “wait and see,” said Erika Lewis. Lewis is director for Cyber Security and Digital Identity, at the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which oversees identity, and was speaking at a recent Westminster eForum.

The UK is developing its Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework (DIATF) to guide the country’s public and private digital identity development. The UK does not have a national identity scheme and so does not have an identity database, meaning it needs to allow identity providers to access separate government databases to build an identity. Providers need to be assessed and certified to be granted access.

The DCMS has been working with the UK Accreditation Service to recognize five certification bodies. They have now certified 33 products against the trust framework.

“The British Standards Institute has told us that they’ve never seen a new certification scheme prompt so much interest so quickly,” said Lewis.

“I think that is testament to the work my lovely team is doing, but I think it’s also testament to the fact that this is a real market where there is a real need.”

Products are already in use for the country’s Right to Rent and Right to Work Check as well as background checks. Lewis quoted data from recruitment firm Reed Screening that has found its hiring checks are down to four minutes and that employers and employees are saving around 30,000 hours a year with digital checks.

Priorities for 2023: trust and legislation

“We want to make sure the government does enough but not too much,” said Lewis who went on to outline the three iterations of the trust framework to date.

Prioritized next steps of the UK’s digital ID journey are to support the passage of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (formerly Data Reform Bill) through parliament, and raising the profile of digital ID as a trusted, safe product.

The Bill covers the trust mark certification scheme so users would know a company has been independently assessed to prove they follow the rules. The Office for Digital Identity and Attributes (OFDIA) is under development and the Bill would see it manage the trust mark organizations. The Bill would also give individuals the ability to build a digital identity based on trusted government-held data.

Adoption sprints are underway with in-person events themed by sector. There are also sandbox testing platforms being made available with synthetic data for product testing.

Britain’s lack of an identity database makes international interoperability less straightforward, but the DCMS is working with countries around the world on frameworks, systems and to attempt to reach mutual recognition, said Lewis.

There are multilateral talks underway with the UN, World Bank, G7 and G20, she said, and so far, digital identity is forming part of international deals such as the free-trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand and the MoU with Singapore on digital economy.

Not a priority for 2023: consumer education

“Lack of adoption isn’t a technology issue; I think it is very much a trust one,” said Lewis. But gaining skills and understanding around digital identity products and use will be left to the private sector, at least initially.

“Whether the market will speak for itself and push forward in terms of upskilling consumers and getting consumers to use products, or whether in the end we need to get involved more as government, I think we should wait and see.

“Our job is definitely to make sure that consumers understand the issues around digital identities – and that will be something that we’ll do as we move forward – and understand what that accreditation means to them.”


UK govt urged to step up role in digital ID as public good at Westminster eForum

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