Thursday, 31 May 2012

Some food for the thoughts of Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Philip Johnston – IdA/DWP

You weren't invited to Ovum's Industry Congress on 24 May 2011, were you, so you didn't hear Phil Pavitt's talk on the "frictionless services" that he says the public is demanding from HMRC.

Still, you can read about it in Computer World UK, where you will discover that Phil is the Chief Information Officer (CIO, i.e. what we used to call the "DP Manager") at HMRC and he says frictionless services require identity assurance (IdA).

He may be right about that, after all we don't know what a frictionless service is, but he must be wrong when he says: "We don't currently have ID authentication in UK government".

That's just not true. Some of us small businesses have been submitting our VAT returns online using the UK Government Gateway every three months for several years now and that requires ID authentication by the UK government. And millions of people use HMRC's self-assessment website for income tax, again via the Government Gateway.

Why does Phil make this false statement?

Because no-one in Whitehall likes the Government Gateway. It doesn't look anything like the front end of Amazon or eBay or Facebook or Google. They want the Government Gateway to go away, it's old and ugly and not the sort of accessory a hip young CIO wants to be seen dead wearing. It cost millions. It works. It seems to be secure. But it's got to go.

What will the IdA replacement look like? Not long to wait to find out now, says Phil, "in March of this year the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed plans that will see it be the first central government department to roll out identity assurance services, in a project that is set to cost £25 million".

£25 million? What's the betting that there's a 1 in front of that by the time the National Audit Office get to take a look? If we're lucky. Otherwise a 4. While even Oxfam won't want the old Government Gateway, already paid for, years of successful use behind it, but pensioned off in its prime.

What do we foresee? All together now – friction!

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