Digital identity: Unlocking opportunities within the public sector

We caught up with Tom Gadsden, product director for identity at Experian UK&I to talk about the opportunities presented in adopting digital identities.

Posted 15 June 2022 by Christine Horton

What is driving public sector organisation to roll out digital identity services in 2022?

There are a number of key factors driving the shift to digital identity within the public sector. From consumer trends and expectations to regulation and the economy, each has its own unique impact on the need for public sector to assess their stage within the digital journey, and identity opportunities to balance digital, with physical verification. I’ll focus on just a couple of the key items.

1. Operational efficiency

Reliant parties working to prove people’s identities are wanting to do so more reliably, efficiently and in a more inclusive way; one in which helps organisations to minimise the number of repeated checks in a consumer’s eyes and helps drive out inefficiencies across the board. If organisations are able to apply more of a collaborative and digitally-led approach, they could get to a stage of getting more reliable answers, at a reduced operational cost.

2. Customer expectation

Customers are now expecting more from services they use. From banking, online retail or government portals, consumers want a seamless journey throughout, with a simple registration and login process, fewer passwords to memorise, minimal effort and simplified verification. But this seamlessness can come with added risk in opportunity for fraud. Using digital identities can act as a robust way for consumers to verify their identity, whilst improving the overall experience.

3. Changing forces & technologies

Technology available to us is improving all the time. The digital revolution has meant that virtually all of us now have a digital identity.  Our smartphones that we all have with us can now double as sophisticated image and biometric capture devices, which are also capable of reading passport chips. With the rise in digitisation as a result of the pandemic, for example, suddenly we all carried around proof of our Covid-vaccine status in our pockets. Organisations need to enable technologies to verify that information in a complementary fashion.

On top of this, we are now living in a highly networked economy – bringing together more technology and capability brings about great opportunity – but this must happen in a robust and reliable way.

What is the opportunity from digital identity?

Investing in the right digital identity design could unlock a range of opportunities within the public sector. One key component of this is the ability to embed inclusivity at the heart. Within financial services, if an applicant doesn’t fit set criteria, doesn’t have a credit file or isn’t on the electoral role, the bank will typically reject that applicant in line with their policies. The public sector is very different. Inclusivity is key for government organisations, people without documents, or unable to access certain services due to vulnerabilities, still have fundamental rights and need to be able to assert their identity.

We must recognise that organisations are all at different stages of digitisation. Some with old, legacy systems which may be challenging to integrate digital processes in to. Digital identity is very much a journey, and organisations don’t need to dive straight into fully digitised processes. Instead, applying a phased approach, learning from others, and building a strong and robust system can allow organisations to gradually adopt the right level of digital journey for them.

Do you have any advice on best practice for successfully implementing digital identity services?

It’s important to remember that organisations really must harmonise their own journey. What level of assurance is appropriate for your organisation? You may already be achieving an appropriate level of assurance, or relatively small changes can be made to align with the appropriate level of assurance within the GPG45 framework.

You don’t need to start adopting everyone else’s identity journeys right away, but rather move to a level of comfort which is appropriate for your organisation. After this, opening yourselves up to other’s identity is a reasonable next step.

There are really four core steps to consider in implementing digital identity services:

1. Strategy – look for a provider who is designing solutions that fits your needs and understands the Digital ID frameworks and GPG45.

2. Quality – quality built into every stage of your checking process is really important, helping give the best outcome. The formation of digital IDs typically requires a number of checks to be pulled together, so a “decline” result in any one service gets magnified and can lead to a disappointing overall outcome.

3. Advisory – not all pieces of the puzzle are necessarily fitting together at all times. Look for a partner who can act as an advisor to discuss their approach and learnings within implementation, rather than jumping for quick solutions.

4. Inclusivity – consider advisors who can offer multiple mechanisms for an approach to assurance, such as knowledge-based authentication and document checking.

At Experian we work with a variety of government bodies to support with digital identity implementation, details of which can be found on the government contracts finder site, by searching “Experian digital identity”. Alternatively, get in touch to discover more about public sector or identity at Experian.