Towards a digital ID – part 8

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This latest instalment in my series on our journey towards introducing a digital ID scheme for Jersey describes our progress since my last post.

If you’ve not been following the series, or if you need a refresher on how we’ve got to this point, please review the previous blog posts on this subject so that you understand the context.

A way forward

My December update outlined three options. Broadly these were:

  1. press ahead with the best solution we can find that meets our current requirements and is affordable
  2. look for the most comprehensive solution that could take us beyond our current requirements, but extra budget would need to be found
  3. not progress with a digital ID solution until the market matures

In short, we now have agreement to run with the first option, for the following reasons:

Avoiding ‘scope creep’

‘Jersey eVID’ is a project led by the Chief Minister’s Department in conjunction with a working group from the Jersey Financial Services Commission, Jersey Finance and Digital Jersey. The project aim is to enhance the process for onboarding of clients through the use of technology across Jersey’s financial services sector. The project is predominantly working on establishing a level of identity verification that will be acceptable to the financial services industry and a route to achieving adoption across the entire sector. It has become clear that this aim is sufficiently different to the eGov Digital ID project that they will be progressed separately, in parallel. There may be areas where it makes sense for the two projects to work closely together and so the respective teams will continue to collaborate.

There had also been discussion about whether the digital ID project should be expanded to include delivering a government-backed scheme for digital signatures. Jersey has had enabling legislation for digital signatures since January 2000, but they are not widely used here. The European Union has been working on technical standards and legislation to support cross-border acceptance of digital signatures, culminating in the eIDAS regulation coming into force in 2016. While widespread use of digital signatures might benefit the Island’s economy if adopted by the private sector and across government, it has never been part of scope of the eGovernment programme to deliver this. It may become part of the roadmap and be delivered as part of a separate, future programme of work.

A maturing market

For most of our two years of research, we’ve spoken to companies who were keen to use Jersey as a testbed for technology that only existed in a lab. Committing a considerable amount of public money on something that we could not see a demonstration of would be at odds with our risk appetite. Our preference is for a solution that we can buy ‘off the shelf’, but until very recently such options have proved elusive. Since the start of 2017 we have seen several products come to market with solid business plans and published pricing – encouraging signs that the digital ID market is maturing.

Commodity pricing

Jersey needs to find a solution with a cost-per-user-per-year that is workable for a population of circa 100,000.

Any solution needs to be built and proven to the highest security standards, so the supplier must be looking at a market much larger than Jersey to achieve a sufficient return on investment.

This dictates a commodity solution, rather than a bespoke one.

Recently we have met with a small number of potential vendors to understand the pricing structures available in the market.  Although these discussions are purely to gather market intelligence, we are seeing a potential to benefit from very attractive terms, based on government use of a digital ID service generating high take-up by the population prior to the provider extending the scheme to the private sector. This has the potential to be a solution to the budget challenge that I explained in my December blog post.

Speed of implementation

Digital ID is a key enabler that will make a range of new online services possible. There is a pent-up demand from States departments for digital ID, with an expectation that a solution will be available for testing before the end of 2017. For example the customer portal, a.k.a. customer services platform which my colleague Manuel blogged about in October will be the first of our systems to integrate with the digital ID. It supports the SAML open standard, enabling it to work with a wide range of authentication systems.

The ability for web pages and online forms to use a digital ID to establish who is accessing the service, and importantly, whether that identity can be trusted, will enable us to streamline a range of processes. It will enable us to work towards real-time processing of application forms, with eligibility established automatically. We therefore need to select a solution that can be readily implemented in a test environment in weeks rather than months, and that can be quickly integrated into our existing and new systems.

Tender

We haven’t set our minds on any particular solution. New options continue to surface. We want to generate competition between suppliers, and for them to demonstrate how a solution might fit our needs. For these reasons, in July we intend to issue an open tender via our channelislandtenders.com site. Potential suppliers of systems that might meet our requirements should register on that site in advance in order to receive an automatic email notification when the tender is published.

We expect to involve an independent specialist in digital identity solutions to help us refine the broad requirements that I originally shared here last August (I would welcome feedback on these – please email egov@gov.je) and to advise us during our evaluation of the tender responses.

 

 

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