There is keen interest amongst local authorities in how GOV.UK Verify could be used to help them deliver services more effectively, more efficiently, at lower cost, and in ways that improve the lives of their residents. This OIX Alpha project, which builds on the Discovery project that reported in February 2017, will look at what GOV.UK Verify can do for local authorities (LAs). But it will also look at what local authorities can do for GOV.UK Verify.

This blog, the first in a series, will give you an overview of the Alpha project. It will introduce you to the stakeholders, set out the project timescales, and give you a taster of the blogs to come. We plan to release a blog roughly every month through the life of the project.

Project overview

The Discovery project demonstrated that data collected by LAs and Housing Associations (HAs) as part of social housing transactions has real value in establishing a customer’s identity. This is particularly significant as certain LA and HA customers fall into the “hard to reach” category as far as GOV.UK Verify is concerned. They may come from the lower socio-economic bands; they may not have a bank account or a credit reference score; they may not have a passport or a driving licence. In other words, they may not have enough of an online footprint to successfully register for a GOV.UK Verify account. LA and HA data, then, could help to hook these people into the digital economy, which is shown to deliver benefits all round, and help government achieve its aim of offering users a single digital identity throughout their lifetime.

The Discovery project also demonstrated that local data repositories – in this case Etive Digital Log Book, a form of personal data store – could be used as data aggregators to make the locally collected data available to GOV.UK Verify IdPs to use as an additional source of identity evidence. With the customer’s permission, of course.

Finally, the Discovery project suggested that LAs would find it useful if they could use GOV.UK Verify not just to access single services at a time, but also to access My Account functionality.

The Alpha project will build on the Discovery project in a number of ways.

The Business Case

DCLG has done some good work done on how GOV.UK Verify, when paired with attribute exchange to deliver real-time, online eligibility checks against authoritative data held by other organisations, could deliver significant savings to local authorities. We will build on that work by adding savings information relating to social housing transactions. But we will also take the business case in a different direction, looking at how a federated approach to online identity across London Boroughs, implemented alongside a portable personal data store, could reduce a local authority’s onboarding costs when a new resident moves into the borough. This is predicated on the idea that there is a lot of churn and movement across London Borough boundaries; at the moment every London Borough starts the identity proving process from scratch each time. Not only is this expensive, it is inconvenient for residents. If we can prove the business case for GOV.UK Verify in a local context, we can demonstrate why an LA or HA would take the time and trouble to help the hard to reach groups get themselves a Verify identity.

We will say more about the business case work in our January blog

Information governance

The Discovery project demonstrated that there is value in locally collected data as a source of identity information. The Alpha will go into this in much more detail. We will review processes and procedures and the training given to front line staff. We will observe how the theory is put into practice when new and existing customers come through the doors of the One Stop Shops. We will button down the categories of identity information that could be made available to the IdPs (based on the GDS Good Practice Guides), and assess the quality of the data as low, medium or high. An important aspect of this work stream will be to assess the opportunities for developing a self-certification process for other micro-sources of data, essential if the findings from this project are to scale. GDS will assure and sign off all the information governance work.

We will say more about the information governance work in our February blog

Technical integration and UI

The Discovery project was a theoretical project. In the Alpha project we will get down to the nuts and bolts of how an IdP would access locally held data. We will build a generic interface specification that could be applied to any micro-source of data, with a standard meta-data scheme to describe the data available. We will then apply that to the Etive Digital Log Book, and work with our partner IdPs and hub provider (see below) to build a working proof of concept. The specification will be agreed with the IdPs, and both the specification and the technical architecture will need to be assured and signed off by GDS.

As part of the technical stream we will think about the customer journey and customer experience. What will it look like to the user when they are given the option to use data in their Digital Log Book to help them register for a Verify identity? How will the elevation through the different levels of assurance be explained and managed – the user may start at LoA1 and only later achieve LoA2 as they build up activity history? And how might Verify be used to give users access to My Account functionality?

We will say more about the technical integration and UI work in our March blog

The stakeholders

The project sponsor. The Alpha project is being led by Etive, and the Etive Digital Log Book will be used as the vehicle for technical integration and UI work.

The project co-ordinator. The Alpha project co-ordinator is Ian Litton, a veteran of the Warwickshire County Council OIX projects on attribute exchange in the context of Blue Badge applications.

The identity consultant. Ian Imeson, of Ian Imeson Identity Consulting Ltd, will be providing the expert input into the information governance and technical specification work streams. Ian has wide experience that includes working with DWP, GDS, and GB Group.

The relying parties. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is the lead local authority, but we are also working with one of their housing associations (Poplar Harca), and the London Borough of Hackney.

The Identity providers. Digidentity, GB Group, and Post Office are providing the IdP input, which will ensure the technical solution is generic.

The hub provider. The Etive Digital Log Book and the IdPs will onboard to the Idemia sandbox hub environment to prove the technical integration. The Alpha project will, in this regard, help further the ambition to develop and deliver private sector Verify hubs, fully interoperable with GOV.UK Verify

Business case development. The Greater London Authority (GLA) will provide a pan-London view that will enhance the business case development

Assurance. GDS will provide information governance assurance, contribute to the business case development, and provide support for the User Interface work.

Project timelines & events

The Alpha project is underway now and will run until April 2018. We are planning to publish the white paper in May 2018, with our final wrap-up blog published in April 2018.

If you have any questions about the project, please contact Ian Litton (i.litton@etive.org).