23 May 2023
by Paul Daley

Digital identity: the key to transforming local public sector services (Guest blog by GBG)

Guest blog by Paul Daley, Director for Public Sector & Partners at GBG #LPSInnovation

Digital identity systems have increasingly become the gatekeepers that allow citizens to access and interact with public sector systems, border controls and healthcare services. Globally, the number of digital identity adaptors is rapidly increasing. In fact, new research reveals users of digital identity documents globally is expected to exceed 6.5 billion by 2026, an increase over 2 billion from 2022, due to the growing importance of digital identity in sectors such as local and central governments.

In this backdrop, national digital identity ecosystems are beginning to emerge to regulate electronic proof of identity. For example, in the United Kingdom, the launch of the Digital Identity & Attributes Trust Framework (DIATF) in 2022, set standards for digital identity verification technology, security and evidence within UK jurisdiction.

However, despite the rapid digital transformation of the government during the pandemic and steps forward to utilise digital identity, there is still more to be done before they will be able to deliver a fully digital and wholly inclusive citizen service. As policymakers and digital identity verification technology providers continue to collaborate, it will be a catalyst for the wider adoption of reusable digital identities, facilitating regulatory compliance and trust in digital identities to enable greater access and security to citizens through local public sector services.

Creating a more inclusive service with digital identity

Inclusion is essential to all local public services and digital identity technology is designed to support all individuals, including those who have historically struggled to prove their identity.

Looking specifically at digital identity and fraud prevention technology, the opportunity for the public sector is huge. Primarily, as the sector has matured there are now tried and tested use cases public sector services can adopt with minimal friction. Private sector organisations, such as fintech, banks and gaming, have already done all the hard work that comes with being the ‘first’ in anything, including inclusive services, having been pushed forward by regulation requirements and customer demand to adopt fraud prevention and identity verification technology very early on.

Keeping accurate data records and conducting thorough identity verification via biometrics, data, and documents to ensure a person truly is who they say they are, are essential practices for many local public sector organisations to ensure the right people get access to the right services and benefits - from regional councils to local authorities and state-run schools. Transitioning these processes from time-intensive manual checks to a digital and automated not only reduces costs, increases accuracy and security but also enables better ease of use and accessibility for those citizens with digital skills.

Conversely, in 2021 Ofcom found that about 1.5 million homes still do not have access to the internet. By enabling those whose needs can be resolved through having a fully digital journey to do so, it frees up time and resources for public services employees to support wider members of the public who require one-on-one help. Ultimately, digitising local government processes will create a more inclusive environment.

Fighting fraud

Like all industries, public services are also facing increasing levels of fraud. Acts of synthetic identity fraud - the use of an identity which has been entirely manufactured or created using a combination of genuine, stolen PII and manufactured identity data in order to illicitly obtain goods or services - has seen reported year-on-year increase in the scale of concern and reported losses relating to this type of scam.  In 2023, varied estimates predict synthetic identity fraud will result in losses of $2.42bn in unsecured credit products and as much as $6bn in total loses to the banking sector.

Not only is the public sector at risk of malicious actors but also needs to spot and correct people’s honest mistakes to provide them with the correct services. Thanks to advanced mathematical algorithms, state of the art colour wave technology and a global library of document images, it is now possible to verify ID documentation from all over the world and ensure that it is authentic. Machine learning technology can detect fake documents and document tampering, including face substitutions, recaptured images, and font tempering and ensure that a person is genuine, reducing risk of identity fraud and associated loss. There are many use cases where this is required in local public services. For example, fraud prevention technology can support Trading Standards investigators to identify fraud by linking individuals and businesses.

With around 84% of the world’s countries providing their citizens with access to at least one online transactional service and the global average at 14, it is critical that the public sector is investing into the technology to ensure security and compliance to protect both themselves but also the citizens they are serving. The data and technology are both available and proven to be leveraged by the public sector and it is a real opportunity for UK Government to make use of these tried and trusted methods. The benefits for could be transformational, both financially for UK Government but will also significantly help improve local services.

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Paul Daley

Paul Daley

Sales Director, GBG Plc.