Auth0: Government agencies must view citizens as customers

Auth0’s Donna Joyce says government organisations must provide the same customer experience as the commercial sector – but digital identity issues won’t be solved overnight

Posted 18 March 2021 by

Government organisations need to treat citizens as customers and provide the same digital experience as banks and retailers.

That’s according to Donna Joyce, public sector, charities & NfP account director at digital identity vendor, Auth0.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a huge number of people accessing government services via digital platforms – many for the first time. “You’ve seen a huge increase in digital services, and so peoples’ expectations of government are much higher with regards to our digital identity. Seeing citizens as customers is a starting point for what we’re trying to achieve,” said Joyce.

“Personally, I would feel very comfortable having a similar experience when I pay my council tax or engage directly with the government as I would with my bank.”

Joyce believes the biggest challenge for government organisations is enhancing the security of their services without damaging the experience for the user. She said it is important to “take away the challenges and give them confidence to enhance the security without damaging the experience for the citizen.”

Holistic approach to digital identity

When it comes to deploying digital identity across government services, Joyce advocates for a holistic approach. However, she said again government organisations are facing challenges around the complexity of the opportunity.

“There are so many areas that need to be fixed. For me it’s about organisations starting to look at identity as an overall strategy, rather than just a fix for a specific issue,” she said.

“A government organisation may have a number of digital services and is looking to implement something as straightforward as single sign on (SSO). If they’re only looking at SSO it becomes more of a point solution and can sometimes be harder to implement from a budgetary perspective and get all of the key stakeholders involved.”

Joyce said government should instead look at devising a solution that can be rolled out across the entire organisation. “Then it becomes much more of a more a wider conversation, and a better story when you look at the outcome,” she said.

Similarly, Joyce said it is a common misconception that identity is ‘one thing,’ when in fact, the industry is made up of many specialised vendors. In 2020, Auth0 launched a technology partner programme, Auth0 Marketplace, which allows the vendor to become an ‘identity hub’ for the public sector. This, it said, helps customers discover and integrate different technologies, including authentication and authorisation from Auth0, but also identity verification from vendors like Onfido, or consent management from MyLife Digital or OneTrust.

“If you’re putting identity in as a strategy across your organisation it needs to become an enabler,” said Joyce. “You need to enable other areas of the organisation to take advantage, and that will always include other technologies. We’re about making sure that we’re working with industry standards, and therefore any integration is a supported rather than an additional piece of work.”

No silver bullet

Addressing the issue of legacy IT within government organisations, Joyce said: “The key message for customers is to really think about the bigger picture. It’s not about trying to boil the ocean. You can have an identity strategy, you can understand your current situation, which will include all that technical debt and legacy tech, and you can have a view of what your utopia is going to be.

“We’re talking about agility, we’re talking interoperability, we’re talking about all of the things where you can make things happen quickly. It’s about understanding the stepping stones to get from A to B. It’s an important part of the conversations we have with customers; let’s just look at it in bite-sized chunks, because then anything is possible.

“There’s no silver bullet. You’re not going walk in a room and be able to solve everybody’s problems, all at once. It’s about understanding ‘where can we find the low hanging fruit that we can make happen really quickly. And for those longer or more challenging situations, ‘what’s our plan to work through them, and how can we get you out the other side?’”

Okta announced earlier this month plans to acquire Auth0 in a deal worth $6.5 billion to accelerate its growth in the $55 billion identity market.