Dear Parliamentary Accounts Committee
When reviewing GOV.UK Verify the Parliamentary Accounts Committee should consider a wider perspective as set out in the attached OIX report on the ‘Cost of Doing Nothing’ or the more recent McKinsey report – rather than the public sector focussed NAO report.
The Internet was built without a way to know who and what you are connecting to. This design flaw has been exploited by criminals as society’s dependence on digital channels grows. Money laundering and criminal finance are estimated to amount to between 3% and 8% of global GDP – a figure that grows year-on-year.
The UK requires a digital identity infrastructure so that people and businesses can establish trust in digital transactions. GOV.UK Verify should be seen in this context, as was intended at the programme’s initiation. The value of the digital economy to the UK is enormous, ‘The Cost of Doing Nothing’ is greater still. GOV.UK Verify IDs are intended to be interoperable with the private sector, allowing a user who created an ID to submit their taxes to use the same ID to prove who they are to a bank to open account. This private sector journey is only just beginning.
Retrofitting trust onto the internet is a massive challenge. The Chinese approach is the development of ‘social credits’. In the unfettered free market, surveillance capitalism has exploited the lack of regulations and international identity standards. The UK government’s leadership and innovation in this complex arena should be applauded – not decried and categorised as ‘an IT project failure’. Its early recognition of the need to work with members of the private sector through the not-for-profit Open Identity Exchange is unprecedented. GOV.UK Verify is recognised leading the world in terms of Digital ID with many other nations taking positive learnings from the project.
At a time of uncertainty and doubt in many of the pillars of our modern societies, I hope the Parliamentary Accounts Committee will recognise that the programme’s costs of £154M and reduced benefits case of £217M distract from a much more important subject: trust.
Chairman and President
Open Identity Exchange