Gove urges use of new digital identity system across Gov.uk services

Details emerge of letter from Michael Gove to Whitehall departments mandating the use of a new digital identity system

Posted 16 February 2021 by

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has written to Whitehall departments in a bid to impose a common digital identity system across all its online public services, according to a report by Computer Weekly.

The article notes that Gove wrote last week to departments about the “development of a single sign-on and identity assurance system”. It says it is not clear when the system will be available, but Gove said in his letter that “all public-facing central government services should migrate onto it and legacy systems will be phased out”.

The publication, which has extensively covered the efforts by the government to implement a digital identity system, reports the work is being led by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and builds on the recent trials of Gov.uk Accounts, a single sign-on system that was billed to deliver more personalised services for users of the Gov.uk website.

However, this latest report says the new system will apparently “go further by adding identity assurance features and sharing identity data between departments.”

Gove reportedly said in his letter that “active participation” from departments is “a precondition for the programme’s success”.

He also said the new system will take precedence over the Gov.uk Verify ID assurance system. “Departments must expeditiously migrate their services and users to this system and must not progress any work on separate, conflicting solutions for identity and attribute verification or single customer accounts and sign-ins,” he told departments.

In his letter, Computer Weekly says Gove stressed that the new initiative relies on departments not pursuing their own developments.

“Success depends on delivering a shared, jointly-owned solution that meets the needs of citizens and of the range of services that the public expects to access digitally,” he said. “Work that is substantially driven by any single department providing public services will lead to further disappointment.”

Last week the government published its rules governing the future use of digital identities.

The UK digital identity and attributes trust framework lays out the draft rules that organisations should follow. It includes the principles, policies, procedures and standards governing the use of digital identity.