In order to do so, the government must know who everyone is. That means everyone needs an electronic identity.
Mindful of the humiliating failure of the Home Office's identity cards scheme, the Cabinet Office have asked the private sector to devise an identity assurance service. An identity assurance service that is absolutely nothing like the Home Office scheme with its national identity register and its biometrics.
Someone has been spoiling the Cabinet Office's fun by pointing out that we already have a way to transact with government over the web, using the UK Government Gateway.
Too old-fashioned, they say, we must have a modern gateway.
And as if to prove it, the Cabinet Office have hired ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken to be executive director of government digital services and SRO of the identity assurance programme. (Keep up at the back – senior responsible owner.)
Boy. Is he ever modern. He ran the Guardian website until six months ago. He uses Apple laptops. And Google Apps. Which means Google, Julian Assange and the Chinese will all know about the identity assurance programme before we the public do.
Anyway, he's not having any of this cobwebby old Government Gateway nonsense. He says in his latest blog, Establishing trust in digital services:
You may not grasp all the detail – he's talking about the federated model of identity management, not a United States of Europe – but you get the gist, "a lot has moved on", the Government Gateway is oldsville.
... the UK assumed the federated model in the Electronic Communication Act (2000) and built the Government Gateway accordingly. But a lot has moved on in the dozen years since Government Gateway was developed and we have a lot of work to do to develop solutions that work for users in the many contexts that they’ll need them.
Why do we need to move on? Why is there a lot of work to do? Because:
Now here's a wrinkle – if you click on that Project STORK link of his to see which opportunities are testified to, what's the first thing you see?
There is a strong desire to work collaboratively across the public and private sectors to develop solutions that meet users differing needs. That desire is international. The USA’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace and the EU Project STORK pilots testify to the opportunities.
"eID" in STORKspeak is electronic identity, and not the famous festival of the same name. Bit of a clanger for ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, that – "national eID" takes us straight back to identity cards and national identity registers.
The aim of the STORK project is to establish a European eID Interoperability Platform that will allow citizens to establish new e-relations across borders, just by presenting their national eID.
But this time it's double wrinkle because what's the only thing everyone (else) knows about Project STORK? It's a pan-European project to share personal and business information and the UK leg of Project STORK is ... yes ... the Government Gateway.