Councils Sign Up For ‘Laggard’ Gov.UK Verify Trials

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GDS is to trial the authentication scheme with 19 councils, as Capgemini says Verify delays are holding back UK e-government

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has announced a first series of pilots with local authorities for Gov.UK Verify, even as a study found the identity assurance scheme’s slow progress was a key factor holding back wider government digitisation efforts.

A total of 19 councils have signed up for two separate trials involving Verify, one for issuing older persons’ concessionary travel passes and the other for residents’ parking permits.

End-to-end digital

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Six councils are to pilot both schemes, Brighton and Hove City Council, Southampton City Council, the London Borough of Camden, Buckinghamshire County Council, Northumberland County Council and the London Borough of Hillingdon, GDS said.

Five councils are to trial only the travel pass scheme, Central Bedfordshire Council, Essex County Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Luton Council and Warwickshire County Council, and eight are to trial only parking permits, Canterbury City Council, Chelmsford City Council, the London Borough of Barnet, Newcastle City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Sunderland City Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Wigan Council.

The pilots are aimed at introducing an online option where there currently isn’t one or improving existing offerings through redesigning the service.

“For residents in those areas it means they’ll have 24/7 access to a government service without having to physically bring, scan or post any documents in person to prove who they are,” the service said in a blog post.

GDS is preparing the first discovery workshops for the services on Tuesday, 18 October and plans to visit participating councils to analyse their needs ahead of that event.

The service said it is also working with councils to redesign high-impact services such as council tax and customer accounts.

Gov.UK Verify is intended to streamline digital government by providing identity assurance that can be used across many different services, but so far the scheme has grown slowly, and is currently only being used with select central government services with moderate or low assurance needs.

Initial studies indicating a high rate of users failing to conclude the identity verification process, with some saying it was overly complex or in some cases impossible to complete.

UK falling behind Europe

Meanwhile, a Capgemini study found that the UK’s e-government progress was “slow” overall and that it was falling behind other large countries such as France and Germany mainly due to Verify’s “limited” roll-out.

“Online authentication enables people to use services completely online and also to pre-fill online forms with data already known by the government, hence significantly reducing time spent on paper processes and visits to the town hall,” said Capgemini managing consultant Niels van der Linden. “It also allows for a secure access to personal data. The UK would hugely benefit from a full rollout across its government tiers.”

The study found that overall European countries were making steady but not spectacular progress on enabling digital services, with the UK taking one of the top spots for mobile-friendly services.

The UK placed second after Iceland for services that were easy to access and navigate using mobile devices.

It found countries including France, Germany, Benelux, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden were “accelerators” pushing Europe forward, while Spain and Finland were making “steady” progress.

But the UK was grouped with Italy, Switzerland and many Eastern European countries as “moderate performers”.

“UK citizens enjoy greater user-centricity thanks to the ease and speed of which they are able to access services,” van der Linden stated. “With the UK’s verification system running at full speed, we’d expect the UK to improve its position overall.”

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