Ruth Milligan, Head of Financial Services & Payments at techUK, explains why the UK needs to act now to put fully-funtioning digital identities in place.
As a report from the National Audit Office has found, there are problems with the UK's digital identity scheme, Verify. The report published on 5 March, found that Verify is not widely used, has been very costly and, in any event, it only covers 19 public sector services. techUK takes the strong view that the UK urgently needs to look to the future and develop a framework which makes secure digital identities widely available across both the public and private sectors.
An interoperable set of standards for secure digital IDs, which can span both public and private sectors, would enable UK citizens and businesses to access all of their digital lives in a simple and secure way. As argued in the techUK White Paper, The Case for Digital IDs, secure digital identities are an essential key to unlocking the value and reaping the full benefits of online services in the digital economy. Such a framework will enable new services to be made available in a competitive market, secure against fraud, allow connectivity among digital services and greatly contribute to the economy as a whole.
A set of standards is needed which uses the latest and most innovative solutions, including biometric and facial recognition technologies. In our view, this would best be done by using private sector expertise in a collaborative way. The UK has highly innovative companies with very secure and simple sign-in processes for digital ID. We should be making the most of this expertise to enable a market to develop, which provides identities suitable to the myriad use-cases, from proof of age to acessing financial services.
There will be difficulties to be overcome: we must cater for different types of identity - risk profiles depend on what an identity is used for and there are layers of verification requirements in different instances. Trust in the solutions will be crucial and therefore a robust liability model with dispute resolution will also be needed. But industry groups are already working to this end and these complexities can be overcome. The willingness and enthusiasm from private sector companies is there and the UK has the know-how to make it happen. What is now needed is a clear policy lead from Government to bring stakeholders together and kick-start a collaborative process. In our aspirations to build a digital economy, we must act now on digital IDs, or risk falling behind.