Verify’s fate is revealed: Government to stop paying for it, and it’s handed over to the private sector

So some clarity, which is welcome – but host of questions for suppliers, citizens and public sector digital service policymakers now need to be answered

Posted 10 October 2018 by Gary Flood

So now we know: the rumours we reported on have been confirmed, and GOV.UK Verify – the chosen way HMG was going to introduce Digital Identity into the nation – will no longer be supported by Whitehall.

Instead, according to a written Parliamentary answer from the Cabinet Office’s minister for implementation Oliver Dowden yesterday, the government will end its investment in the scheme inside the next 18 months after one last “capped” investment – with Verify then being transitioning to “a private sector led model”.

That’s because, claimed Dowden, “GOV.UK Verify is now sufficiently mature to move to the next phase of its development [so] the private sector will take responsibility for broadening the usage and application of digital identity in the UK… The Government expects that commercial organisations will create and reuse digital identities, and accelerate the creation of an interoperable digital identity market.

“This is therefore the last investment that the Government will provide to directly support the GOV.UK Verify programme [and] it will be the responsibility of the private sector to invest to ensure the delivery of this product beyond the above period.”

While many in the UK Digital Identity community were probably expecting such a decision, given the ineluctable fact that it’s just not won enough public support in terms of sign-ups, the focus of attention now swings to the possibility that multiple standards may now soon become available.

Why we say that: DCMS (the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) took over strategic responsibility for Digital Identity in June off GDS, and has yet to report on its plans for such functionality – though press reports, like in Computer Weekly last night, suggest it is working on a plan to “stimulate an ecosystem of providers based on government-backed standards for interoperability of digital identities” and opening up APIs to central government databases – which would suggest a number of possible products out there, some Verify-derived, others not.

While Dowden confirmed that Verify programme will continue to provide a Digital Identity service to the British public sector, and at least some of the existing Identity Providers (IDPs) will have won a final round of funding, the market will need to debate this major announcement.

The ideal opportunity to do so could be next month’s Think Digital Identity for Government conference in London, where senior stakeholders from both industry and government are gathering to discuss the main trends affecting the future of digital ID (in both the public and private sectors).

That’s why, notes Matt Stanley, Director of the organisation organising the event, Think Digital Partners, “With this big news regarding Verify we think November is an even more compelling event for all parts of the UK Digital Identity ecosystem to attend.

“Over the coming weeks there will be more clarity coming out about the future of federated Digital Identity in this country, but the conference will be the first real opportunity for suppliers to meet identity professionals from across the public sector and open a proper dialogue with them – their chance to ensure this change is for the better and positive progress will be made.”

Stanley confirmed that there has been a sharp rise in registrations since the news broke last night, and that he thinks that trend will continue over the coming weeks.

“We are of course adjusting our agenda to take in this latest development so as to ensure the best and most relevant conversations will take place, and hope you add your voice to the debate on the 29th.”

Go here for more details on the event, including registration, which remains complimentary to public sector professionals.