Editorial

Survey: Digital Identity “immature and fragmented” in councils

Think Digital Partners survey finds only a quarter of councils had or were developing a single overarching digital identity strategy

Posted 12 November 2020 by

The management of digital identity and provisions for identity assurance is immature and fragmented – not just across councils but also within councils.

That’s according to Identifying as Citizens, a survey carried out by Think Digital Partners into how local authorities are approaching identity verification and authentication, and the associated challenges they are facing around the management of personal data. The findings of the survey were revealed at today’s Think Digital Identity for Government event.

Only a quarter of councils had or were developing a single overarching digital identity strategy, and the most common set of barriers was around lack of funding or a proven business case.

Many councils faced uncertainty as to how to approach the challenge due to a lack of standards, frameworks and guidance, and there was an expectation that there should be an easier path to implementing identity assurance proven to work for local authorities.

“Local authorities typically have mixed environments: they run hundreds of different services, not all of which have or necessarily need a citizen-facing digital service,” noted the report. “Requirements for identity verification and authentication are mostly specific to the service and its risk level. And, as ever, legacy systems and processes often determine what is possible.”

“It’s disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, to see such slow progress in local government,” said Jessica Figueras, founder of Hither Ventures, and author of the report.

“All authorities are struggling with wider transformation, and the continuing existence of tech siloes around specific digital services makes it hard to create a single overarching digital identity framework. Major suppliers to local government could do more to help.

“Local authorities also have some of the most complex use cases for digital identity, often involving digitally excluded or vulnerable citizens.

“Interoperability is of course a top challenge and it’s a shame that local authorities have had so little support on this from central government over the years. Let’s hope that will soon change.”

Aspiration and opportunity

Despite this, the survey saw genuine interest and ambition for what might be achieved.

A significant proportion of respondents aspired to an identity management framework that served all digital services, and there was solid interest from councils in using their own citizen data to become identity providers to other public or private sector bodies.

Said the report: “With local government crying out for support and standards, there a clear opportunity for central government or sector bodies to revive past efforts to unlock local digital identity.”

To get your copy of the report, email Matt Stanley.