Towards a digital ID: part 5

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Working in the open

We are blogging regularly here as we continue our journey towards introducing a digital ID for the Island. This is in the spirit of working in the open, something that we know we must improve on. Digital ID is one of the major components that the eGov programme will deliver and as such we believe it is really important to share our thinking and our progress with our taxpayers and with the world.


Working in the open is one of the cornerstones of the Open Identity Exchange (OIX), an organisation that we joined at the end of 2015. OIX organises workshops where companies designing products and services in the fast-moving world of digital identity come together in pre-competitive collaboration. OIX provides a framework for such companies to participate in projects that explore new applications for digital ID, new markets, and new approaches. Right now, Jersey is participating in such a project, at the end of which the research and experimentation done and the results will be published in the open. Jersey has benefited from our team reading many of the 25+ published papers on projects that have gone before, and in turn others will benefit from reading the learnings from our project.

Alpha project

We are exploring the potential to reuse the model of identity assurance pioneered in the UK by the Government Digital Service. The attributes that make ‘GOV.UK Verify’ an interesting proposition were described a month ago in my previous blog.

The project had its first milestone on Wednesday last week when the project team met together for the first time using the facilities of Jersey’s London office.

The participants in the project are:

  • Robert Clayden (project manager), Geraldine Cardwell (user research) and me, from the States of Jersey
  • Rob Laurence, an expert in digital ID from Innovate Identity
  • Aonghus Fraser, Chief Technology Officer at C5 Alliance and his colleague Noël Mallet – a design specialist
  • Chris Eckl, Chief Technology Officer at Sitekit, a company with experience of implementing the core components
  • Pete Gale who was previously the user research lead for GOV.UK Verify at GDS
  • Penny Newton from the Cabinet Office representing the GOV.UK Verify team
  • Sarah Munro of Barclays and Dick Dekkers of Digidentity – two of the certified companies in GOV.UK Verify.

There are three parts of the project:

  1. Testing our assumption that Islanders would be willing to create and use a digital identity to access government services online;
  2. Testing whether an ‘identity hub’ – a key component of GOV.UK Verify – could be built locally using on-island skills
  3. Establishing the availability of data from within the States of Jersey and from external sources that will be necessary for the verification of Islanders’ identities.

In September we will be inviting local people to share their views with us as part of the first objective.

The three aspects of the project will converge in early October with the publication of the project’s conclusions.

Alternative options

In my last blog instalment, I wrote that “we want to be sure that all viable options have been considered. To that end, we will be commissioning around 20 days of work by an independent specialist company with the brief to highlight to us any options from suppliers worldwide that meet our criteria for consideration.” It is important that whoever undertakes that review is deeply involved in the digital identity market so that they are already aware of the companies offering solutions, and particularly new entrants to the market offering innovative approaches. Tony Moretta, CEO of Digital Jersey proposed two companies that fitted the bill for us to decide between, and we have now chosen Consult Hyperion as the preferred supplier to carry out the work. We will be having an initial workshop with them in the next couple of weeks to make sure they have all the information they need before they start looking worldwide for off-the-shelf solutions for us to compare against the GOV.UK Verify model.

This work is important for two main reasons. Firstly, while the UK approach is very new (it went live in May this year) the market for identity solutions is ‘white hot’ right now with much research taking place around the world and new products and services being launched all the time. Buying into an identity solution is a long-term investment and we don’t want to have ‘buyer’s remorse’. Secondly, if we focus only on the UK model and it proves after further investigation to be unsuitable for Jersey for whatever reason then we don’t want to find ourselves back at square one. We need other irons in the fire.

The findings of the research will be presented to us at the end of September.

Relying systems

A digital ID system is of no value on its own. Islanders will use their digital IDs to gain access to the Jersey government’s online services (both States of Jersey and parish ones) and perhaps in due course States-owned utilities and private sector companies’ websites. There will be ongoing work to integrate the digital ID system with such services.

We have to start somewhere, and so some of the services that we expect to integrate in the first 12 months include:

  • a new ‘citizen portal’ – this will be the subject of a future blog post from others in the eGov team
  • a ‘register to vote’ online service
  • (drumroll please) an online tax account which will in due course replace the existing tax return (hopefully much to the delight of Islanders that hate the annual filling out of the paper form and like me have dreamt of a digital alternative)

These systems need the digital ID system to be operational before they can be launched.

Once you have logged in to these systems using your digital ID we will be able to safely pull information we hold about you from our databases to pre-populate online forms, saving you from having to type in information such as your name, address, date of birth and so on that we already have.

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