The Identity Challenge Facing Digital Government

Surrey, (PresseBox) - Stephen is 18 and about to start university. He uses Google to find insurance for his new car, to buy course books and to choose a new bank account. These transactions are all with third parties, but Google helped him to find the suppliers and prepopulated his details.

He now wants to access government services in a similar way: using one login to register to vote in the next election and pay vehicle tax. At the same time, he wants to check that his provisional driving license has been updated since he passed his driving test, and wants to apply for a Government-backed loan for higher education. He also needs to pay the parking fine he picked while driving his mother's car.

Any government would struggle to handle all these transactions seamlessly, but most are trying, and with good reason. Driving more citizens to digital services can help the public sector meet citizens' high expectations without breaking budgets, and can increasingly encourage participation in the democratic process.

Generating trust in the identity and access management (IAM) initiatives that will enable a single digital identity for each citizen is vital to the success of a new digital relationship between the state and its citizens. Stephen is prepared to hand over some personal data to Google in return for a better user experience. The same will be true of government sites, except that the data involved - such as passport and driving license details - is more sensitive. Governments are more accountable than private organisations, and the confidence that the state will guard its citizens' privacy and protect their data from cybercrime is fundamental to people opting into digital services.

Security works both ways: having more data about people means there is more to lose, but it can also create more reliable digital identities through contextual authentication. This authentication allows people to access the services they want to use in a more timely and relevant way. It also has to work across departments such as education, social services and health to create the interoperability and integration that not only protects user identities, but also enables the system to work cohesively.

An additional challenge for CIOs making the shift from services-centric to citizen-centric government, is the changing way people expect to access services. According to the Gartner report, "Predicts 2015: Government Adapts to the Digital Era," by 2017, more than 50 per cent of citizens will want to use mobile devices to access services in the same way they already share data with third parties to access mobile banking, gaming and social apps.

In the short term, addressing the balance between secure authentication and usability means that CIOs will increasingly need to evaluate what the private sector can offer with "identity as a service" platforms. As more consumers want to bring their own identity to government services, CIOs will also need to work with social identities - such as those on Facebook and Google - to make login and authentication easier and allow the private sector to benefit from the relationship as a return for its expertise.

In the meantime, government CIOs need to approach IAM pragmatically. The Gartner Access and Identity Management Summits 2015 in Europe and North America will help CIOs and IAM specialists to find workable solutions that will address the balance between secure authentication and usability.

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