Monday 7 September 2015

RIP IDA – what they didn't tell you about the future of GOV.UK Verify (RIP). Follow the entrepreneur

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, now known as "GOV.UK Verify (RIP)",
is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme.
And it's dead.

GOV.UK Verify (RIP) 101
According to Introducing GOV.UK Verify (RIP), "GOV.UK Verify [RIP] is the new way to prove who you are online so you can use government services safely, like viewing your driving licence or assessing your tax".

It's a daunting prospect, "when you’re using digital services, you need to be sure that your privacy is being protected and your data is secure".

But don't worry, "GOV.UK Verify [RIP] is more secure than usual methods of proving who you are, because there’s no central storage of information". That is a contender for one of the world's great non sequiturs but, all the same, don't worry ...

... because "GOV.UK Verify [RIP] uses certified companies to check it’s you ... it takes less than a minute to verify your identity each time you need to use a GOV.UK service ... You choose the certified company (you can choose as many as you like, and you can change at any time). You don’t have an account with government ... no-one has more information than the minimum to perform their function".

Don't be confused, "GOV.UK Verify [RIP] isn’t a service in its own right. Rather, it provides a way into government services on GOV.UK".

Follow the entrepreneur
Last week saw the fifth Annual Investor Summit at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hampshire. 200 throbbing entrepreneurs were entertained for the day with a programme designed and sponsored by:
  • Ariadne Capital, "an investment and advisory firm which operates as an enabling platform for Corporates who seek to build new digital revenues, acquire digital start-ups and enhance their strategy, Start-ups who understand digital infrastructure and are building enabling technologies which will bring strategic advantage and revenues to Corporates, and Financiers who are seeking the winning industrialists of the day to back. We operate in the MediaTech, HealthTech, FinTech and Cleantech ecosystems".
  • EntrepreneurCountry Global, "Ariadne Capital is investing in the ‘Digital Enablers’ whose role is to bring new economics to larger, non-tech traditional businesses and industries ... EntrepreneurCountry, a subsidiary of Ariadne Capital, is operationalizing these economics for the larger, non-tech traditional businesses and industries (we call them affectionately Goliaths). By building in EntrepreneurCountry, Goliaths can build their ‘Digital P&L’ by formulating new hypotheses about how their business will work in the future, and how their industry should work. In our marketspace, we help Goliaths – whether they be banks, newspaper groups, retailers, transportation firms – build the future from the future, test pilot new ventures through EntrepreneurCountry’s ‘citizens’ who act as an early adopter group, and learn how the new economics of becoming a platform are superior to the current economics of their firm. Why are we doing this? [Good question] ... ",
  • Kemp Little, "Many law firms keep up with new technology. We lead it_ ... At Kemp Little, we are known for our ability to serve the very particular needs of a large but diverse technology client base. Our hands-on industry know-how makes us a good fit with many of the world's biggest technology and digital media businesses, yet means we are equally relevant to companies with a technology bias, in sectors such as professional services, financial services, retail, travel and healthcare".
  • ®ightsrer "was founded in May 2011 with the vision of enabling media businesses and brands to overcome the huge fragmentation in the online video market with a single technology platform for engaging audiences and transacting with optimal efficiency".
  • Xoriant, "we bring three core differentiators to every client engagement [Good] ...".
  • O2, "the Think Big Blueprint – our plan for people and planet – shows how we're going to get there. You can also download this as an e-brochure".
  • OIX "is helping drive the expansion of existing internet services and the rapid deployment of new online products. With its team of rivals, OIX has become a global center of excellence for the identity trust layer of online transactions serving as a test bed for business, legal and governance policies in the emerging open identity ecosystem".
You know what to expect from these events, don't you. The day opened with The future of Communications and networks followed by The future of India. You can watch for yourself as Arvind Gupta explains (1:09:55) that there are millions of people in India and millions of them have got mobile phones so, like him, you ought to be able to make some money there.

They covered The future of media and The future of conflict resolution. Not to mention The future of property and The future of banking & financial services.

Antony Barker, the Managing Director and Chief Pensions Officer of Santander forgot to mention the future in the title of his presentation, Harnessing energy to feed returns but then normal service was resumed with The future of backing creative artists and The future of story telling, followed by The future of democracy and citizenship and finally The future of retail.

So what?
So what was our Janet Hughes doing there?

Janet, remember, is the programme director for GOV.UK Verify (RIP). And GOV.UK Verify (RIP), remember, "provides a way into government services on GOV.UK". That's its job. Nowhere on GOV.UK does it mention how the idea of GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is to throw 60 million UK electronic identities (eIDs) like so much red meat to 200 keen-as-mustard entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, there was Janet chatting about The future of identity to the assembled company (2:15:13).

She was a bit naughty. She didn't tell them any of the problems with GOV.UK Verify (RIP). Some of the younger entrepreneurs may have gone away thinking it works.

And she was lucky that no-one seemed to notice the logical howler when she said that she was basing her predictions on Wardley maps which, she said, don't tell you what's going to happen or when (2:21:40).

What her slides did tell the entrepreneurs is that she's got a few hundred thousand eIDs for them already and there are millions more where they came from, just you wait and see, Spring 2016, ... and the implication is that, if you can only harness the energy, you entrepreneurs will be able to feed all the returns you've ever dreamed of, for free – why else did Janet attend the event?

Nobody told you. But there it is. The future.


Updated 9.9.15

Six months ago, back in March, the Government Digital Service (GDS) published an obituary, GOV.UK Verify (RIP): objectives for live. Like all good obituaries, we said, it's what's not included that is important. And there was a lot not included.

GDS have now updated the obituary, please see today's GOV.UK Verify [RIP]: an update on progress towards objectives for live, and would you believe it, everything is going swimmingly, progress is being made, satisfaction levels are going through the roof, the timetable will be adhered to.

That's one agenda. That's what GDS tell us, the public, and no doubt what GDS will tell their colleagues in the UK Civil Service tomorrow at #CivilServiceLive in Newcastle.

That's all about GOV.UK Verify (RIP) being used by the digitally literate public with a healthy credit history and a working broadband connection to access public services.

But that's not what GDS are telling the world's entrepreneurs, please see blog post above, which is "here comes GOV.UK Verify (RIP), fill your boots".

You see, it's what's not included that is important.

Updated 21.9.15

Today the GOV.UK Verify (RIP) page on the GOV.UK website was updated. It is designed to help central government departments confirm that you are you when you use their on-line services, while protecting your privacy and keeping your data secure. It uses "identity providers"/"certified companies" to do its job.

And it says that "GOV.UK Verify [RIP] is in public beta. While GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is in beta, it’s optional for users". In the mind of the Government Digital Service (GDS), GOV.UK Verify (RIP) may become mandatory if at some stage they deem the system at their whim to be no longer in public beta but live.

What would become mandatory is the use of GOV.UK Verify (RIP) to access public services. That's all you read about on the updated website. GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is all about viewing or sharing your driving licence information, for example, claiming a tax refund, and so on.

There is no mention of GOV.UK Verify (RIP) providing a platform for private sector services. There is no mention of the 200 entrepreneurs Janet Hughes was talking to on 4 September 2015 being able to use GOV.UK Verify (RIP) to help them make a profit.

Whether you think entrepreneurs making profits is a good thing or a bad thing is irrelevant. The point is that it's just not mentioned on GOV.UK, the public face on-line of UK central government. People aren't being prepared for the idea. People are being only partially informed. People are being misinformed.

Ms Hughes is the programme director for GOV.UK Verify (RIP). She has 1,915 followers on Twitter who will all know from her tweet this afternoon that the idea is to help build a market for identity services.

We know that. But no-one relying on the GOV.UK page knows it. They're not being told.


While you're scrabbling around looking for an answer to that question, you might also care to remember that the market for identity services has existed for decades, if not centuries. GDS aren't helping to build it from scratch.

Further, compared with the banks, in particular, GDS are ill-equipped to help with expanding the market for identity services.

Also, the services to which GDS promise to connect GOV.UK Verify (RIP)-users are in the main forever stuck on the horizon six months away.

GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is in trouble. GDS aren't telling us that but that's the message that comes across.

Updated 28.10.15

"On 26 October 2015 the Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock spoke at the Institute for Government on how digital transformation can improve government services." There is an excerpt of his talk available on the GOV.UK Verify (RIP) blog.

The Minister talked about "the development of GOV.UK Verify [RIP] and how he verified his identity on his mobile phone, in between meetings, using just the contents of his wallet".

We know what he means, we who are versed in the dogma of the Government Digital Service (GDS). But to an outsider, that second claim must look as though the Minister registered his identity using his phone and perhaps a £20 note.

Even an insider will be baffled by the claim that GOV.UK Verify (RIP) offers users "a level of ID security that wasn’t previously possible online". There's no telling what the Minister means by that ...

... but never mind that for the moment, because the blog post isn't about security, it's about the merits of GDS's user research: "When GDS trialled this service, they gave people a list, showing the logos of the [identity] providers they could choose. But this made people feel uncomfortable. It looked too commercial, in a space where you really want reassurance that you’re dealing with the government. So when the team replaced the logos with the names people responded diffenetly [sic] and more positively, and so of course that’s what now happens".

There it is, in black and white, the Minister and GDS know that users feel "uncomfortable" if GOV.UK Verify (RIP) looks like a commercial venture. Hardly surprising – Ministers and GDS have always promoted GOV.UK Verify (RIP) to the general public as though it's all about transacting with the government, GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is "the new way to prove who you are online, so you can use government services safely".

But that's misleading, as we followers of the dogma know. And as the Minister should know.

He must know that Janet Hughes, the GOV.UK Verify (RIP) programme director, is chatting up investment capitalists and entrepreneurs, extolling the benefits to them of GDS's identity assurance scheme. Take for example her appearance at the 4 September 2015 Annual Investor Summit, Follow the Entrepreneur.

Different messages for different audiences? Instead of each audience separately feeling confident about GOV.UK Verify (RIP), the result could be general mistrust. And as the Minister says, "of course that’s what now happens".

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