14 Sep 2023

101 Ways: OneLogin enabled data sharing will shape the future of Citizen Services #techUKSmarterState

Guest blog by John Wright, Director at 101 Ways, as part of Building the Smarter State week. #techUKSmarterState

When considering how to build a Smarter State, the first things that came into my mind were how do I interact with the State? What frustrates me?  

  • I interact with government when I need to, not because I want to 

  • When I interact with government I want it to be as easy as possible 

  • I get fed up of having to provide the same information over and over again 

I suspect most of us are similar?  

Millions of people interact with the state each week because we have to, for example, to pay or taxes, to register a birth or a death, MOT our cars, access benefits, to ensure our various licence's (driving, fishing, etc.) are up to date. When we have health issues we need to access the NHS but not many people consider interacting with the state as a hobby! 

We are often time-poor, busy people. Things fall off the edge most of the time as we try to deal with the conflicting priorities of our work and home life. We squeeze in life admin around the edges and if anyone out there is like me, we get frustrated when things don’t just work, or are hard to find, or don’t provide the whole service we need. 

Yes, Government Digital Services has helped raise the bar significantly over the past decade, supporting departments with a common identity and brand, demonstrating how to engage with society and make transactions with the State simple, developing core services that allow departments to invest in service provision not common services payments and notifications.  

But there is still a lot more to do! There is still a lot of friction to remove, behaviours to change, bureaucracy to challenge and policy to reform. We need to reframe the way society perceives the State.  The State exists to serve citizens, to create a society that is as fair and equitable as possible, that understands our needs, that enables us to thrive and succeed. The State should not be feared and should be embraced. But we put barriers in the way of that. 

If we were to embrace the concept of identity as an enabler to access services, not as a threat to our privacy. If we were to allow sharing of appropriate data between government departments we would get better, easier to access services. The State might start to feel more joined up, more responsive to our whole needs, dare I say it, “Smarter”.  

I think back to the Verify programme, while it had a lot of very positive objectives, just the language and term “Verify” created an air of suspicion from users. It was perceived as a threat, compounded by a process that used third parties to verify our identity.  The use of the service was complicated and confusing and departments didn’t want to inflict this process on their service users. 

The One Login programme is a breath of fresh air. It feels like an enabling service, something that is going to help me with my interactions with the State, allow me to just tell the State about me and my needs once.  

Having a common identifier across government services allows us to think a bit wider when it comes to providing great citizen services. Combine a unique identifier, with an authorised ability to share data between government departments and there is the opportunity to reduce the information required to access each service, to understand our circumstances and tailor services to our needs, whether that be for online digital service or traditional face to face services. 

I’d like to see an “Entitlements” mindset, not an “Identity” mindset. So we can use our devices or a card to claim appropriate health care, pick up prescriptions without having to shout my personal details over a counter or sign a bit of paper, and be happy that our public services are protecting themselves against fraud, and ensuring that those in need get what they need. Most of us register with and engage with supermarkets and their loyalty schemes because there is reward in doing so. I feel we would do the same with the State if it made our interactions with the state easier and simpler. 

Trust is needed to deliver a Smarter State, trust that those in power are focused on creating a fair society, one where there is nothing to be gained from hiding in the shadows, one where transparency and policy can easily be codified in the systems we use day to day and be responsive to the changing demands of society. 

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John Wright is Director at 101 Ways.

For more of John’s insights into how One Login and data sharing will help build the Smarter State, click here for his blogs on the subject, and the themes in these blogs are brought together in his eBook: Delivering The One Login Vision.

From 11 – 15 September techUK is running our annual Building the Smarter State Week in the run-up to the ninth edition of our flagship public services conference, Building the Smarter State, on Wednesday 27 September. Book your tickets here