Friday, 4 April 2014

RIP IDA – registration just became 35 times more expensive

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but, just in case it isn't obvious to all, IDA is dead.

IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.

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It seems like only yesterday but actually it was 1 March 2012 when Public Servant of the year ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken MBE published Identity: One small step for all of Government.

At that stage, the Cabinet office had "built a new team and delivery plan and a working governance structure to implement Identity Assurance solutions strategically across government", he told us. The team was starting the "exciting challenge" – progress to date unknown – of "creating a trust infrastructure", whatever that is.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were going to be the "vehicle" for delivering identity assurance (IDA). Get it right for DWP and IDA could be "cut" (copied?) and pasted across the whole of Her Majesty's Government (HMG) to support its digital-by-default policy. That's what he said.

"In the first instance, IDA digital services will be used to support Universal Credit and the Personal Independence Payment, which from 2013 will replace DWP’s current benefit system". Some details were set out in a notice published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU): "The initial DWP services will be required to provide identity assurance for approximately 21 000 000 claimants".

And how much was this all going to cost? Thanks to the Government Digital Service (GDS), the cost of IDA had been cut from DWP's £240 million estimate to just £30 million (= £25 million + VAT).

In the event, two years later, there is still effectively no Universal Credit and there are no "IDA digital services".

But there is a new post on the IDA blog written by Janet Hughes and David Rennie, and there's going to be a new OJEU notice, please see Identity assurance, procurement 2.

We are reminded that "last year we signed contracts with 5 identity providers. These are companies that will verify that users are who they say they are ...".

"Identity providers"? Have you grown accustomed yet to this 21st century science fiction in the British Constitution? Probably not. No-one in the UK has been provided with an identity yet by any of these five companies and there is no sign that anyone ever will be.

Today's IDA post goes on to say that "identity providers are paid each time a user registers with them. The initial contracts cover the first 600,000 registrations. We’re expecting to use all of these this year ...".

Just a minute.

The "initial contracts" were meant to cover 21 million DWP claimants. That's what the OJEU said. Where has this 600,000 figure come from? The goalposts have moved.

The DMossEsq slide rule suggests that value for money, IDAwise, has just plummeted by a factor of 35. At this rate, registering 21 million claimants would cost just over a billion pounds, making DWP's £240 million estimate seem modest by comparison.

GDS now have to plug an enormous hole in their "trust infrastructure". If there ever are any registrations in GDS's non-existent IDA programme, those registrations are going to cost 35 times more than we were first told. And in another two years' time? What will we be asked to believe then?

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