OIX to lead project on local contribution to GOV.UK Verify

Alpha phase begins on how councils and housing associations can contribute data and benefit from the online identity assurance platform

The Open Identity Exchange (OIX) has begun work on testing the details of how information from local authorities and housing associations could contribute to the GOV.UK Verify platform for online identity assurance.

Male head in silhouetteThe membership organisation, which carries out research on digital identity services, has completed the discovery phase and begun the alpha of the project. It is intending to look at how councils can support Verify, run by the Government Digital Service (GDS), and vice versa.

The work is intended to build on an earlier effort, carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), on how Verify can be paired with attribute exchange for real time eligibility checks against data held by other organisations. This has been seen as something that could provide significant savings for councils.

OIX said the discovery phase showed that data collected by local authorities and housing associations has real value in establishing a person’s identity, and that councils would find it useful if people could use Verify to access a ‘My Account’ style single sign-on facility for a range of services.

Federated approach

The alpha is following up DCLG’s work by looking at how a federated approach to online identity across London boroughs, implemented alongside a portable personal data store, could reduce a council’s costs for ‘onboarding’ a new resident for its services. This could help in dealing with the heavy churn of people moving between boroughs to live.

“If we can prove the business case for GOV.UK Verify in a local context, we can demonstrate why a local authority or housing association would take the time and trouble to help the hard to reach groups get themselves a Verify identity,” OIX said.

Another element will involve looking at processes, procedures and training for frontline staff – such as those working in council ‘one stop shops’ – in collecting personal data. OIX wants to assess the quality of data and the opportunities for developing a self-certification process.

GDS will assure and sign off all the information governance work.

Interface and metadata

There will also be some work on the technical details of how an identity provider – one of the companies that carry out the initial verification of a person’s identity – would access locally held data. This will involve building a generic interface specification, with a standard metadata scheme, that could be applied to any source.

It will be tested with the Etive Digital Log Book, which can act as an aggregator of data. This was tested in an earlier project in Tower Hamlets to provide supporting evidence to verify the identities of some people who lack the right ‘digital footprint’ in the private sector.

The project is being coordinated by Ian Litton, who has run OIX projects on the use of attribute exchange for Blue Badge applications in Warwickshire County Council, and sponsored by Etive. Tower Hamlets is acting as the lead local authority, a handful of the identity providers are taking part, and the Greater London Authority will provide input into the business case development.

It is set to run until April of next year, with OIX intending to publish a white paper on the findings the following month.

Image by Simon Waldherr, CC BY-SA 3.0 through Wikimedia