Achieving identity assurance with the thin file demographic  – concluded

(also know as the South Yorkshire Projects)

OIX UK and the Cabinet Office  partnered with the South Yorkshire Credit UnionBarnsley Council and others to explore identity assurance with the “thin file” demographic and have conducted two significant projects to date Bridging the Digital Divide and Investigating the Challenges of Digital Identity– they are also known as the South Yorkshire Projects.  OIX UK is about to launch a third phase entitled Digital Sources of Trust – looking specifically at how to take overly used offline verification online.

Digital “inclusion” and “uptake” are two of the most interesting, and possibly biggest challenges in the adoption of digital identity.  To achieve mass usage of the Identity Assurance Programme and to realise significant cost reduction in face to face transactions the Cabinet Office is particularly interested in exploring and developing the take-up of identity assurance in what is known as the “the thin file demographic”.

The ‘thin file” audience have difficulty having their identity verified online.  They are some of the heaviest public service users but may not have utility bills because they are on pre-pay meters.  They may not have a bank account as they may deal only in cash.  In some cases there are also issues with accessing citizen data too.  This means such individuals have a weak digital footprint as they do not meet the criteria across the Good Practice Guides 45 (GPGs 45) for an Identity Provider to verify them online.

It would be wrong to assume that everyone with a weak digital footprint has difficulty using or understanding online resources.  However there is some link between digital exclusion and a weak digital footprint.

1. Bridging the Digital Divide – the O2 Money Card


This first project took place over nine months with 15 participants from a specific criteria of location and economic/working status.  You can read the full white paper here.  Please note that the card is no longer in circulation but OIX UK is interested in expanding this project and welcomes any interested parties who might be able to provide a similar product.  If this is of interest please contact OIX UK.

The project looked at a practical solution to building a digital identity with a product – in this case an O2 Money Card was used.  It was issued via the South Yorkshire Credit Union, who were given permission by the financial services regulator to carry out the Anti Money Laundering (AML) checks which are vital in issuing Visa cards and in achieving “Money” in the GPGs 45.

The O2 Money Card was similar to a Visa debit card in that it allowed people access to their money (from the South Yorkshire Credit Union) but had additional benefits including:

Visual identification – SecureKey, a Canadian authentication solutions company, developed a simple visual recognition service, enabled for facial recognition or personal data. Those issued with an O2 Money card had their photographs and personal details recorded in a database against an identifier for the token. When members presented their O2 Money card to the reader, the member’s photograph and key personal details were presented.  Of particular interest was the application of this in a local pharmacy where the pharmacist was given an additional level of assurance and verification that the person collecting a prescription was who they claimed to be.


Money Management – With each transaction the user would be sent a text message to their mobile phone telling them how much had gone out, and what was left in their account.

2. Investigating the Challenges of Digital Identity – South Yorkshire Phase 2

This discovery project has been concluded and the white paper is available to read here.

The project aimed to identity what challenges there were in achieving Level of Assurance 2 (LoA2) (GPGs 45)  with a group of citizens from a specific demographic, using three identity providers. The specific demographic who were chosen on the basis they are assumed to have a low-level identity footprint i.e. the “thin file”demographic.

As an addition to reaching LoA2, the second challenge was to asses the behaviour change a digital identity had on the individual –  if he / she would be more likely to access local authority services digitally.  This was to ascertain intent, and if this additional ease of access to a local authority service relate to cost savings for GOV.

Key findings

Ability – high ownership of smart phones with access to the internet.  This demographic owns and uses smart phones daily for activities like social media, basic research and more.  There is not a problem with understanding or using the internet.

Want – high understanding and appreciation of using Govt. services online.  The demographic understood and appreciated time savings with using services online rather than face to face and particularly liked the ability to access multi services through a single password.

Access – significant difficulty achieving LoA2.  Adding attributes such as social media history and mobile phone data would have limited use as this demographic swapped, shared and dumped their profiles, numbers and phones frequently.  As such the Credit Union data is important and needs to be made accessible to the Identity Providers.  In addition the demographic has significant data within local authorities, social service, education services and more.  This data needs to be digitised and translated to be accessible for verification purposes by the identity providers.


MydexVerizon and Post Office delivered this project.


You can read the full white paper of phase one here.

This discovery project has been concluded and the white paper is available to read here.