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Blair Institute: It’s possible to transform UK public services with digital ID

Blair Institute: It’s possible to transform UK public services with digital ID

There are over 190 ways for people to access local and national government services in the United Kingdom, with 44 sign-in methods. A report from the Tony Blair Institute has identified use cases for a comprehensive digital ID system that gives people more control and awareness of how their data is being used while streamlining government services that are more tailored for individual needs.

Comprehensive digital identity could transform services like education, health, immigration and welfare. For instance, schools could draw insights from the student data already being gathered by apps like Google’s Classroom and more easily share them with parents if digital IDs were implemented. Doctors could use digital IDs to personalize treatment.

It could also streamline immigration and asylum processes, according to the report. The asylum system costs £3 billion (US$3.8 billion) annually, including nearly £6 million ($7.6 million) each day for hotel lodging and £219 million ($279 million) a year on detaining people while identifying them. Moreover, the number of asylum applications is on the rise. In 2022, the UK saw the most asylum applications since 2003. More than three-quarters of these applications are asylum seekers who arrived in dangerous, small boats.

A digital ID system could allow asylum seekers to apply at an embassy overseas, eliminating the need to take hazardous steps unnecessarily. It might also make it harder for undocumented immigrants to disappear into the underground economy, working and renting illegally.

The report proposes that such a system be implemented with three core principles in mind: transparency and control, security and privacy, and speed and utility. The National Health Service saw data breaches in 2022 and 2023, which could color the public’s perception of the government’s ability to keep data secure. Still, over 60 percent of UK residents polled would be willing to give away personal data in order to access online services.

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