07 Feb 2019

techUK calls for action on digital identity

techUK white paper 'The Case for Digital ID' widely welcomed at launch event

The launch event for our white paper, The Case for digital ID, drew a wide audience to the Digital ID All Party Parliamentary Group on 6 February.



Speaking to an audience of techUK members, technology experts and representatives from business, Ruth Milligan, Head of Financial Services at techUK, outlined the main message of the paper: digital IDs are essential if the UK is to reap the full benefits of a digital economy. Government, therefore, should take the lead in creating an interoperable framework for digital identities, which can operate across public and private sectors. This should be a joint effort involving private industry, stakeholders and standards bodies within the UK and internationally.



Steve Pannifer, from Consult Hyperion, noted that the Nordic countries had seen 1-2% increase in GDP from using digital IDs. The UK should learn from their experiences and if we don’t act now, we will fall behind. Two forces are needed to make this happen – ‘push’ from central government to bring people together and build standards and ‘pull’ from industry and businesses through investment, innovation and generating a market.


Andrew Churchill, from Technology Strategy, stressed that we are talking about identities in the plural - we all have multiple personalities online – coupled with interoperability and secure standards at the core. Trust in the solutions will be crucial and therefore a robust liability model with dispute resolution will also be needed. He pointed to Open Banking and the requirements for two-factor authentication, coming into force in September 2019. We should be looking to protect all our data through equally strong security.



Julie Dawson of Yoti, stressed that in the UK we still use paper-based ID, which offers no authentication checks, often gets lost and leads to major fraud. There is clear demand for online identity verification in multiple ways, from dating sites to age verification for young people using social media. There is an urgent need for digital identities to be accepted as equally valid as paper ID. The UK has immense technical expertise in this field and the export opportunities are huge.


The report was warmly welcomed by the audience: all agreed that the need was urgent in so many sectors, from financial services to immigration to KYC/AML checks required by a great many SMEs. Concern was expressed, however, as to how, given the failure of previous attempts, this could be made to happen. We also will need the infrastructures to deliver data securely to mobile devices. A further issue is that the risk profile of an identity depends on what it is used for; there are layers of verification requirements in different instances. Clear language is needed to avoid confusion.

Other speakers noted that there are several organisations pushing in the same direction and it was felt that the APPG and techUK could act as a point of coordination for these activities. Also clear was the need to learn from the experiences of other countries and all felt that we need government to step up and give direction on open access to passport and driving licence data for verification purposes.

The clear conclusion was that there are highly complex issues along the road to digital identities but that this should not be a deterrent. It will take much collaborative work, but the UK has the expertise to make it happen and the will is certainly there.

Photos courtesy of Joseph Spear.