Among the noise and hubbub which 2020 has brought, one positive step towards reliable online identification use has sneaked through almost unnoticed. Before the global health crisis enveloped all of civil society as well as much else of the world’s attention, the UK government revealed a considered approach to the issue of secure digital ID and documentation use.

Although this important issue has indeed been highlighted by some of the consequences of the Covid pandemic, subsequent lockdown and economic affairs, the underlying need for clarification of the future of this potentially vital part of modern life going forward has maintained an underlying momentum. When the country regains some kind of calm, its citizens may at last see progress towards widespread digital online verification.

Replies to Call for Evidence

What seems a long time ago, in 2019, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) issued a country-wide survey entitled a “digital identity Call for Evidence”. This went out to any and every potentially interested party, which had strong feelings of any kind relating to the importance or otherwise of digital documentary and identity verification. The response was deafening; if the Minister for Digital Infrastructure (MDI) had an inkling that progress was wanted, he is now in absolutely no doubt.

Indeed, on 1st September 2020, the DCMS issued a statement that it had heard the Call, and plans to do something about it. It has begun a consultation process with a broad range of stakeholders, with a view to finally nailing down exactly how the government, in conjunction with private organizations, the legal profession, and individuals, can best create a robust system of online verification which is fit for purpose in the UK in the 21st century and beyond.

Specifically, the consultation will seek to clarify issues of individual rights, sources of redress, oversight responsibilities, privacy and technical standards.

Economic drivers

In taking this action, the MDI and the Cabinet Office are responding to the loudest reply of all; digital identity can and should play a massive part in developing and securing the health of the British economy. As such, it is widely felt that only the government itself has the power and tools to take the lead in pushing this agenda.

One example quoted in responses is house buying. This signifier of economic health can be greatly facilitated by the use of digital identity checks. Traditionally, the process of finding and securing a property is notoriously slow, and stories of people falling foul of “the chain” are very well known; documentary and ID checking being the main hindrances.

Commitment to progress

Speeding up house buying is one concrete example of the economic benefits of effective digital verification; there are many others, at both micro and macro level. As the UK strives to find its place in the world post Brexit, the digital economy is acknowledged as being one of the strengths to which it should play. The DCMS says it is committed to ensuring that digital identity is central to this strategy.