Report: Digital identity must recognise complexity and diversity of local public services

Any digital identity solution for the public sector must address complex services offered at a local level, such as integrated health and social care, supporting troubled families, protecting children, driving equality, and reducing crime, says Socitm.

Posted 18 January 2022 by Christine Horton

The Society for innovation, technology and modernisation (Socitm) says the success of the government’s new digital identity offering will depend on the solution recognising the complexity and diversity of local public services in how they are managed and delivered.

Referring to DCMS’ remit to develop a trust framework for digital identity that can embrace both public and private sectors, Socitm says it can’t just focus “on the large transactional services of central government or the economic opportunities of the banking and retail sectors.”

Socitm made the remarks as part of its Public Sector Digital Trends 2022 report. It said: “We expect to see the emergence of interoperable digital identity solutions for the public sector able to address the more complex relational services typically offered at a local level, such as integrated health and social care, supporting troubled families, protecting children, driving equality, and reducing crime.

“This means avoiding the ‘developing first for Whitehall and then generalising’ approach, which does not reflect diverse citizen needs, including those with no ‘digital footprint’ or those unable to act on their own behalf.

“National frameworks and solutions will also need to learn lessons from the past in terms of inclusivity and gaining high levels of public trust. This includes protecting everyone from digital fraud, abuse, or unintended errors.”

Local digital authentication solutions

The association noted “a succession of failed digital programmes nationally, including the GOV.UK Verify system, on top of which these centrally led programmes simply take too long and devour too many resources with poor returns.”

Consequently, it said local government and parts of central government have given up waiting for a national solution. In the face of growing demands they are developing their own locally based, digital authentication solutions.

“This runs the risk of ending up with a patchwork of digital identity systems that typically are locked into service silos, are not shareable and are incompatible.

“From the perspective of the public, in addition to having to understand many different methods of accessing secure public services online, this ‘patchwork of solutions’ has also been an unnecessarily costly journey for the taxpayer. Worse still, many of those who are digitally excluded find it increasingly difficult to access the very services on which they depend, especially during a pandemic.”

However, it noted that the new digital identity framework, the NHS app and Digital Identity Scotland “are exciting developments, showing the art of the possible.

“More importantly the public, although cautious, appear ready to accept the concept of a digital identity, provided they are in control and unaccompanied by an ID card.”

The Home Office and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) will be the first government organisation to employ the initial iteration of the new government-wide login system in 2022.