The Cabinet Office Identity Assurance Programme (based in the Government Digital Service) aims to help users transact digitally with public services through convenient & secure login mechanisms. Behind this simple objective lies a complex problem: how to ensure the user and the public service have sufficient trust in digital channels. Identity is an important part of the answer.
A number of reports and studies have investigated when we do and when we don’t have enough confidence to transact. Systems for establishing trust in the physical world have emerged over a very long time. They include the law and judicial system, of course, but also reputation, brand and marketing tools. By and large, in the physical world we have ways to determine whether we should enter a transaction and have some idea of how to seek redress when things go wrong.
We need to extend these physical world ‘trust infrastructures’ to cater for digital transactions. The US National Strategy for Trust Identities in Cyberspace envisages an ‘identity ecosystem’ and many companies are helping to create it. No single organisation can deliver the solution. It requires citizens, organisations and institutions from the public and private sector to work together with a common aspiration to tackle fraud.
Collaboration is king
In the UK we have been developing our approach to the subject over the last few years with wide engagement from many organisations and interested stakeholders. We need to transfer this collaborative spirit from the design phase into practical operation as we start to introduce user selected identity services as the registration and login mechanism for public services.
We have been working on the concept of ‘schemes’ as a mechanism to remove the complexity from users who want access to public services – and the Departments who want to deliver them. (After all, you don’t have to understand the Telecommunication industry to make a phone call.) Schemes will be a way by which a commercially viable model can be delivered without separate, expensive contractual arrangements being put in place between each and every party. This will reduce risks for all parties – and lower costs.
Schemes will allow the many organisations that have a role to play – large and small – to co-operate , collaborate and compete without creating a confusing choice for users.
This week we have presented the schemes concept at the Inside Government, Cyber Security Conference and been consulting with stakeholders to bring fresh feedback into the development. We have provoked some positive debate, and surfaced some interesting opportunities, issues, opinions and ideas to add in to the mix.
Watch (and help us fill) this space
There is a lot of work to do over the next few weeks and we are grateful to all those people, in the UK and overseas, who have made positive contributions to the thinking. As we build consensus around the details on schemes we will provide them here.
Image: Jeremy Brooks