The One Login vision: making it work

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In this blog series so far, I’ve talked about the Government Digital Service (GDS) One Login initiative, one of the UK Government’s six key missions in delivering its wider digital and data strategy. The aim of this public sector single sign-on and identity-checking system is to provide citizens with a more personalised, seamless online experience, and easier access to services. The benefits for government departments are also clear: greater efficiency, increased protection against fraud, and, of course, cost savings. As well as the ability to deliver more joined up services due to the increased interoperability across various agencies.

A successful strategy for data sharing, as I’ve also discussed, is critical to realise the potential of One Login. And central to this are the concepts of control, security and trust. How much the public accepts and embraces the service relies on how secure they feel their data is and what control they have over what happens to their data. So establishing the right data sharing model, with the right technical infrastructure to support it, is vital to the overall project.

In this third blog in the series, I’d like to look at how the UK government, the GDS and government departments can make One Login real. There’s no dispute that it’s a complex undertaking, but understanding what responsibilities lie where is a significant first step to creating a blueprint for success.

Who’s driving the vision?

While there are obvious benefits to numerous stakeholders of getting One Login off the ground, the overall vision and approach must be centralised for the initiative to work effectively. This will ensure a single operating mode and will ultimately provide citizens with a consistent experience when playing multiple roles in different situations.

For example, a user accessing HMRC to manage their personal tax affairs should also be able to perform Lasting Power of Attorney activities for an elderly relative lacking the capacity to handle their own affairs.

This requires a single entity to own the authentication/permissions model. Logically that sits with GDS.

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Take the data sharing model…

It’s important that departments agree with how data should be shared, and what process this follows. A good solution might be for two departments to work together to establish an efficient model for data sharing that they know works. 

This model can then be shared with other departments and become the standard across the board, but the ownership of it rests with the GDS. 

Note, however, that it’s important for departments to have ownership of the configuration and implementation of the model. This will ensure all parties reach the best centralised model that works both individually and between them all.

Data, control and user adoption

We can look at it from the user’s perspective. Say an individual has a dashboard that shows them all the different services they have access to. It might display outstanding tasks, whether they owe money to HMRC, or if they’re entitled to certain benefits. 

This dashboard is a centralised service owned and operated by the GDS, but all the information is provided from the different agencies the individual interacts with. Within that, the user can configure their security and data sharing settings in the same way that they can on any other platform – be it Facebook or Google or any other application.

This raises an interesting point about data and control that can perhaps be used as an incentive to adoption. Through the centralised dashboard, citizens are able to give permission for agencies to share their information. This might make life easier for the citizen, for instance, by departments being able to share data and use it to pre-populate other forms, saving the person time and effort. 

In this way, the user gets the very best experience of the system – exactly what it was designed to deliver. 

It would also be interesting to see this level of opt-in data sharing extended to an ‘entitlements card’ that would allow citizens to prove they’re entitled to wider services – for example free or pre-paid prescriptions, NHS dental care or selected services from private providers.  

With millions of us already sharing our personal data in exchange for services we consider to be of value, this isn’t a big leap for citizens.

A federated implementation model: the best route to success

The federated model that I’ve described, whereby departments own their own services within a centralised framework, is already in use across government. For example, in payments and notifications engines. Here, while departments own their engagement experience, by using a centralised design toolkit and common standards we get a consistent look and feel, consistent terminology, and a more fluid experience for the user.

As I discussed in my previous blog, for the federated data sharing model to work we need an API-based infrastructure. It’s imperative therefore that departments provide these interfaces based on the unique user reference generated by the One Login account.

How can government agencies accelerate the vision?

The pressure on all government bodies has never been greater. Performance goals are being upped while budgets are consistently shrinking. Focusing on critical business and operational objectives is a full time job, so the reality is that initiatives like One Login inevitably drop down the priority list. But joining up government departments in projects such as this is vital if the UK government is to modernise. 

Specialist support can help accelerate the path to adoption. For example, at 101 Ways, we’ve led complex identity services projects in the private sector with clients such as Hargreaves Lansdown that can be applied to the challenge of One Login. As a one-stop shop for projects of this kind, we can support not only the design and build of centralised services, but also the integration of all departments into those services.

This means valuable in-house resources and skills can be focused on core performance, while progress can still be made with key initiatives such as One Login, which will get the government closer to its digital targets. And, perhaps more importantly, provide the services citizens expect.

Get in touch with our public sector specialists to see how 101 Ways can support your service.