UK Third Sector ‘not yet ready for Digital Identity,’ claims research

Uptake in this country has been slow – and that picture’s unlikely to change soon, claims Yoti

Posted 26 November 2018 by Gary Flood

UK charities don’t see much value from Digital ID – and if anything, see it as actually potentially harmful.

That’s the possibly dismaying conclusion of Digital ID solution provider Yoti, which says UK charity leaders worry that Digital Identity could negatively impact beneficiaries, make it harder to access charity services and block them from exploring other tech.

The vendor conducted research earlier in the year on Digital Identity needs in Africa and South East Asia, and then repeated the exercise with UK charities to understand the issues and challenges facing UK non-profits when it comes to the topic: you can download the full findings here, but the main pull-outs it has identified are:

Introducing new tech could have negative consequences for beneficiaries Participants were particularly critical about the implications of this type of technology (biometrics and legal identification online) for the lives of their beneficiaries and Yoti’s Head of Social Impact Ken Banks say they were also worried about the use of identity data, security breaches and hacks, and the data being sold to third parties. A number of participants were not convinced they could trust any third-party digital identity solution storing any data that was critical to, and connected with, their work.

Tech could make it harder to access charity services Those accessing charity services may not have a smartphone, data, connectivity and/or confidence to use this. They might also lack access to legal identity documents which, in the case of some digital identity solutions, are a requirement for use. These were seen as significant reasons not to adopt a digital identity solution, even if it only applied to a small proportion of beneficiaries.

Free tech is still expensive and difficult for charities to adopt Offering tech solutions for free is not what initially attracts charities to adopt them, particularly when there is limited knowledge and understanding of the technology on offer. Concerns were raised about the costs in terms of time and staff capacity needed to understand the marketplace, the solution, how to adapt systems and implement it, as well as supporting staff, volunteers and beneficiaries to use it.

Charities’ digital priorities prevent them from exploring new opportunities to adopt tech Organisational priorities for digital focused on developing a digital strategy, undergoing digital transformation, improving staff skills, expanding the reach of face-to-face services and putting tools and guidance in the hands of beneficiaries. These priorities reduced the likelihood of exploring new technology, such as digital identity solutions.

However, the research also signalled a possible positive sign, adds the company:

Digital identity solutions may help charities improve interactions between their staff, volunteers and beneficiaries Organisations were most interested in using digital identity solutions to help identify volunteers and to prevent beneficiaries from having to retell their story – in other words, making it quicker to both verify that someone is who they say they are and to recall key information about them, with one stating, “There are two things that survivors tell us all the time; one is, I don’t know how I can secure information about myself – that might be about my immigration status, it might be my passport details, it might be evidence of what’s been happening to me. Two, is that survivors are entirely fed up of constantly repeating the same information over and over again to different organisations.”

Yoti shouts out to a number of non-profits it said helped reach its findings, including YoungMinds, The School for Social Entrepreneurs – Midlands, Reach Volunteering and St Basils, “as well as many others who wished to remain anonymous”.

The company describes itself as offering a verified identity that can be used to securely connect with a business and other organisations for a broad range of uses everyday.

If the issues raised here intrigue you, don’t forget that Thursday sees the opening of our second Think Digital Identity for Government 2018 conference on the future of the tech in both the private, but also public, sectors in this country; come and make sure your voice is heard in the debate.