Okta urges more focus from government on citizen experiences

A disjointed approach to digital identity across government organisations creates a frustrating user experience, said Okta’s Ian Lowe

Posted 17 November 2022 by Christine Horton

A lack of cohesion on digital services between local and central government organisations risks impacting the citizen experience, according to Okta.

Okta’s solutions marketing director, Ian Lowe, was discussing a need for a single reusable digital identity that can be used to access different services at the Think Digital Identity event in London.

“As workers, we have to log in to our work accounts to access the applications to do our best work every day. We have a digital identity to do that. As consumers, we need to create an account with Amazon or with Netflix or with Zoom, whoever it might be, that we may want to buy something or consume the service with. Then as citizens, we have to create accounts with government. We’re having to give the same attributes over and over again. Why can’t we have one digital identity? Why can’t our digital identity belong to us? And why shouldn’t it belong to us?”

However, the different areas of government need to collaborate more to avoid disjointed digital experiences.

“We’ve got a really interesting dynamic in the UK between local government and central government. We have central government thinking big about how citizens will access central government services. We have lots of local government developing their own citizen services, whether that’s a mobile app, or a website, and they’re engaging with private sector partners to do that, or they’re building it themselves. Government – local and central – is creating a bigger risk problem by going their own way each time.”

Lowe was in conversation with Jessica Figueras, independent digital identity strategist and vice chair of the UK Cyber Security Council. She pointed out that the digital service owner also owns the risk associated with that service.

“If security is going to be compromised, it’s you that bears that risk, so you have to mitigate. This tells you why the problem is not necessarily being able to get the technology. It’s about the lack of willingness or ability for that department to delegate the mitigation of risk to other parties. And that’s why fundamentally we have so many silos in identity within the public and the private sector.”

Figueras said that while individual government departments will face their own issues around risk that no one else can mitigate, there are many opportunities to think about areas where departments can share components or risk signals.

One ID to access them all

“We should always be thinking about what’s the ideal user experience that we’re looking to deliver?” said Lowe. “As a citizen, I only want one ID that I need to use to engage with government, whether that’s local or central. How do we make that happen? Maybe the legal frameworks aren’t there necessarily. Or maybe the politics aren’t there. [But the] technology is definitely there. How can we help government to adopt that and move quickly?”

He maintained that the starting block for every digital experience is identity. He also pointed to innovations in decentralized identity to questions around identity ownership.

“Do I own my own digital identity? Does the government own my identity? Does my bank own my identity? But with decentralised services, we can start to answer those questions and move towards a world where we can own our own identity.”

Register to hear the full discussion.