One UK citizen said:”I pay the government to identify and verify me when I am born (birth certificate), when I marry (marriage certificate), when I die (death certificate) and when I travel (passport and driving licence). Why should I then have to pay an outside private organisation to verify who I am when I transact with the government online, when I've already paid the government? Let the government – possibly the passport service that is also the national records office – be my identity provider of choice.”The UK is the proud possessor of not just one "identity provider", not two, but no less than eight of them. Digidentity and Verizon. The Post Office and Experian. Mydex and Ingeus. Cassidian and PayPal.
It's been hard for them. Initially, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) offered the "identity providers" £240 million to get the Identity Assurance Programme (IDAP) up and running in the UK. Then ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken stepped in and cut the offer to £30 million. By the time contracts were awarded, that figure was down to £25 million.
The idea was to have IDAP "fully operational" for DWP by March 2013. Four months ago. It wasn't operational then, and it still isn't.
Has IDAP been shelved? Or cancelled? No. Digital by Default News tell us that HMRC will be the first public body to use IDAP.
(It may help to explain that Digital by Default News "is one of a new portfolio of Contentive websites providing critical, real-time intelligence in a wide range of niche industry verticals".)
So things are looking up for the "identity providers"? All those years of hard work negotiating the terms of IDAP and now, at last, it's paid off and they're going to get their hands on the identities of tens of millions of individual and corporate taxpayers' identities?
Take another look at that Digital by Default News article, Citizens would prefer government-owned identity provider. Yes, it spends a bit of time saying that "the scheme will be run by eight private sector organisations which will hold digital ‘passports’ for enrolled UK citizens, enabling them to access online government services".
But the bulk of the article is about how no-one wants private sector "identity providers", what we really want, apparently, we "citizens", is for the old Identity & Passport Service (IPS) to be our one and only "identity provider". "Identity providers", it is saying, "we don't need you, we don't want you, we can do better without you, your presence has delighted us long enough, do not stand upon the order of your going".
The Senior Responsible Owner for IDAP is ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, see above. He is also the chief executive of the Government Digital Service (GDS), responsible for making public services digital by default, and he's probably the de facto publisher of Digital by Default News N [please see comments below].
What is he up to? He's alienated DWP, the UK's biggest-spending department of state, he's alienated the eight "identity providers" on whom IDAP depends and now he's got no-one left to turn to – the whole point about IPS is that it failed.
He's promising to provide HMRC with identity assurance, having promised and then failed to provide it to DWP last March.
Failing with DWP is one thing. But HMRC is different. The state relies on HMRC raising about £600 billion of tax every year. Failure is unthinkable. No tax, no state.
The question was, what is he up to, and the answer is, who knows, ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken's tactics are incomprehensible, the only point that is clear is that this is the end of IDAP, the end of digital-by-default, which can't work without identity assurance, the end of GDS, the end of midata and Individual Electoral Registration and maybe the end of G-Cloud, too – on 1 June 2013 GDS took over responsibility for G-Cloud.
IDAP never was going to work. Its failure could nevertheless have been long and drawn-out, and expensive. Thanks to this latest slap in the face of the "identity providers", we taxpayers may be lucky – quicker and cheaper failure.
Who do we thank?
Step forward Neil Fisher. Mr Fisher is vice president of Global Security Solutions at Unisys Corporation. He is responsible for the opinion poll results on which the Digital by Default News article is based. They fell for it hook, line and sinker.
He is also, of course, the Cassandra who told ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken and Francis Maude that any project with the word "identity" in its name is doomed.