Government departments will begin testing a first prototype of the Coalition's new identity assurance model for its entire online public services space in October this year.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude confirmed the plans in Parliament yesterday.
As The Register reported last week, the government is already in early talks with "trusted private sector identity service providers" to develop the concept of ID assurance.
Maude offered a broader outline about those plans on Wednesday, as the government continues to try and push all British citizens to access its services online.
The first government services to test out the system include the Department for Work and Pensions' universal credits, NHS HealthSpace and HMRC's one click programmes, said the minister.
"Online services have the potential to make life more convenient for service users as well as delivering cost savings. However, currently customers have to enter multiple log-in details and passwords to access different public services, sometimes on the same website. This involves significant duplication, is expensive to operate and is highly inconvenient for users," said Maude.
"It acts as a deterrent to people switching to digital channels, hampers the vision of digital being the primary channel for accessing government information and transactions, and provides an opportunity for fraudsters."
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman told us last week at the government's alpha.gov.uk briefing in a dingy office* in Lambeth that it was looking for feedback on identity verification and authentication for public sector bodies with particular attention on online and telephone channels, as well as the provision of related software and computer services.
Maude said yesterday that his department would "draw on expertise"** from organisations in the public and private sectors. He added that privacy advocates such as NO2ID would be kept in the loop about development of the prototype. Final implementation of the system is expected in August 2012, he said.
"Our intention is to create a market of accredited identity assurance services delivered by a range of private sector and mutualised suppliers," said the minster. ®
*The alpha.gov.uk team are beavering away on the Martha Lane Fox-endorsed project in a location that is on the outskirts of Whitehall and, perhaps significantly, shielded from Internet Explorer 6 hold-outs in government. Indeed, one of the mantras adopted by the team is "fuck IE6".
**Can someone please tell Maude that ex-Microsoft ID guru Kim Cameron is possibly-maybe available?