IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) are trying to transform government by making it digital by default. They have chosen 25 public services as exemplars. Exemplar no.9 is a service for DVLA – the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – and is described as follows:
That's point #1.
If you are a driver you will be able to view information from your record, including what vehicles you can drive and any penalty points and disqualifications. Drivers' data will be made available via a new DVLA enquiry platform built to handle high-volume enquiries
Point #2 – GDS have been trying for some time to get identity assurance working. On 11 February 2014 they told us that IDA was finally being tested behind the scenes, and that testing on exemplar no.9 would start to use IDA in public in March:
Point #3, on 1 April 2014 DVLA announced that:
Initially we will be adding more services and users quite gradually, as we continue to get the service ready for wider use. Other services will begin to use identity assurance from March onwards, starting with DVLA’s view driving record service. The DVLA will start trialling identity assurance for some users, aiming to use it exclusively once the identity assurance service is in public beta.
"... after 15 months of hard work this was it", they said, "we had delivered the first part of what we had set out to achieve ...".
Yesterday, at just after midday, we launched the public beta of View Driving Record on GOV.UK.
Can you now see "what vehicles you can drive and any penalty points and disqualifications" on-line? Yes.
And can you see IDA in action? No.
After 15 months of work, what we get is the screen form above with just four fields to fill in and when you press the button you get two database lookups – the vehicles you can drive and any points on your licence. Maybe it's harder than it looks but it doesn't look as though that should take 15 months. Not if you're using "agile" software engineering methods.
Leave a space in your National Insurance number or in your post code when you enter it, and GDS tell you "Sorry, due to a technical problem we can't display your details right now. Please try again later" – an obtuse way to tell users to remove the spaces, and a surprising approach for an organisation that prides itself on designing user interfaces.
Are you really the user of this service? The objective is to make life easier for DVLA and for the car hire companies – this service is one step along the path to dispensing with the paper counterpart driving licences we all lose. The objective is also to make it easier for car insurance companies to check that we're telling the truth on our proposals.
This heavy reliance on National Insurance numbers to identify us is likely, we are told, to underpin the individual electoral registration service due to be released in June 2014. Does it provide adequate assurance?
All of these matters and more we can debate. But, point #4, that debate is set against the background of the continued glaring absence of IDA. Where are the so-called "identity providers"? Where are the personal data stores? Where is the secure identity hub?
"From today, [DVLA, the UK's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency] has launched a new digital service. Now you can view your driving licence information online." That's what the Government Digital Service (GDS) said today in a Tweet. And they provided a link to a post on the GDS blog, A new way to view your driving licence info online.
You might take that at face value.
If you were born yesterday.
But as the rest of us know, if only from the 8 April 2014 post above, the service was launched at least six months ago.
No-one knows why it was launched then.
It's of no use to drivers.
And no-one knows why it's being re-launched now. It's still of no use to drivers. And it still operates without the benefit of the long-promised identity assurance.
From today, @dvlagovuk has launched a new digital service. Now you can view your driving licence information online. http://t.co/TMS7YfX78C