Cost savings in sight thanks to new work on identity assurance

Major savings, and improved customer experience of transacting with government services are in sight thanks to new work on identity assurance and particularly ‘attribute exchange’.

‘Identity assurance: enough on its own?’ a new briefing from Socitm, sets out the potential of adding to the mix ‘attribute exchange’, a means by which service providers can access information online about an individual’s ‘attributes’ – for example being disabled – that entitle them to a particular service they are applying for.

Being able to establish these attributes online, rather than individuals having to present evidence of them in person, can strip out bureaucracy and delays in transaction processing, with the potential savings to service providers, including central government, local authorities, third sector and private sector providers, being very significant.

The briefing picks up on an earlier Socitm briefing, published in January 2014, that introduced the Open Identity Exchange (OIX), the UK Government’s Identity Assurance Programme (IDAP), and some identity assurance pilots being run at Warwickshire County Council.

In that briefing, Socitm argued that establishing a basis for trust in both e-commerce and e-government is a key part of the search for economies in public services, and that a common, interoperable, approach across central and local public services is desirable.

The new briefing describes the findings of two phases of piloting about identity assurance (IA) and attribute exchange (AE) undertaken at Warwickshire CC and highly relevant to local authorities looking to streamline the processing of transactions.

The first pilot tested new methods for authentication, one using social media, and the other using two of the government-chosen identity providers (IdPs), PayPal and Verizon.

The team found that service users were very reluctant to use their social media accounts with a government website, citing issues of privacy, and also the risk of government transactions appearing on their social media profiles. Users were also confused by the concept of using a third party IdP for IA, being unclear as to why private sector companies would be doing this on behalf of government, in whom users had greater trust.

With these findings fed back into the Identity Assurance Programme (IDAP) a second phase of piloting was carried out by Warwickshire CC earlier this year, this time on the use of attribute exchange to support applications for blue badges and residential parking bays.

The briefing reports that during design of the prototype services, considerable effort went into determining how to address fairness, transparency, privacy and consent issues.

According to the briefing, the work at Warwickshire shows that there is considerable untapped potential to exploit by adding attribute exchange to information assurance, and suggests that this potential is unlocked quickly in order to help local public services respond to the challenges of austerity.

Attribute exchange should allow online delivery of eligibility-based services and lead to dramatic transformation of those services and is significantly more transformative than identity assurance on its own.

The briefing notes that Government departments will be key attribute providers for local authorities with the DWP being a particularly rich source of attribute data. A fertile area for local and central government collaboration, there is potential for attributes to be exchanged in both directions.


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