Government looks to digital ‘ID cards’ to enable easier access to services

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The government plans to create digital “ID cards” for public to make it easier for them to access services such as GPs.

Number 10 revealed on Tuesday it plans to “update existing laws on identity checking to enable digital identity to be used as widely as possible”.

Increasingly people are required to prove their identity to access services, whether it is to buy age-restricted items on and offline or make it easier to register at a new GP surgery, according to a statement from the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport.

Details are yet to be ironed out but the government intends to consult on developing legislation for consumer protection relating to digital identity, specific rights for individuals, an ability to seek redress if something goes wrong, and set out where the responsibility for oversight should lie.

It will also consult on the appropriate privacy and technical standards for administering and processing secure digital identities.

Taking to Twitter to discuss the role digital ID cards could play in registering for a new GP, medConfidential co-ordinator Phil Booth said NHS numbers work “just fine”.

The move is the latest in Dominic Cummings data revolution across government.

Digital Infrastructure minister Matt Warman said: “Digital technology is helping us through the pandemic and continues to improve the way we live, work and access vital services.”

A new Digital Identity Strategy Board has been established to oversee the work and has established six principles to strengthen digital identity delivery and policy in the UK.

These include:

  • Privacy – when personal data is accessed people will have confidence that there are measures in place to ensure their confidentiality
  • Transparency – when an individual’s identity data is accessed when using digital identity products they must be able to understand by who, why and when
  • Inclusivity – people who want or need a digital identity should be able to obtain one
  • Interoperability – setting technical and operating standards for use across the UK’s economy to enable international and domestic interoperability
  • Proportionality – user needs and other considerations such as privacy and security will be balanced so digital identity can be used with confidence across the economy
  • Good governance – digital identity standards will be linked to government policy and law

The role of data during Covid-19

There’s been a significant focus on the use of data during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Cumming’s a vocal proponent of the power of data and the need to revolutionise its use.

In April the Department of Health and Social Care established the NHS Covid-19 Data Store to use data to monitor the spread of the virus and allow the NHS and government to appropriately plan for outbreaks.

Big tech companies including Amazon and Delloitte were drafted in to help collate data for the store, run by Palantir.

In July the government extended its contract with Palantir for a further four months. NHSX said the contract was a “direct award” using the GCloud framework.

NHS England and NHS Improvement are currently procuring a data platform to continue the work of the NHS Covid-19 Data Store, according to a prior information notice published in July.

According to the notice the procurement process began on 1 September under the GCloud framework, which does not require NHS England to publish a tender.

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