Significantly fewer farmers are registering online for the Common Agricultural Policy payments scheme than last year, despite government plans to create an online-only exemplar digital service, Freedom of Information numbers reveal.
As of 10 February, just 1,300 farmers have so far registered online with the Rural Payments Agency through the new identity assurance system Verify, compared with 32,000 who have used the alternative telephone system.
The deadline for all farmers to register for CAP payments is May.
In contrast, 70,000 farmers registered online last year. However, the RPA switched off the Government Gateway online identity system in October.
El Reg understands the major stumbling block with Verify is its failure to recognise businesses and third-party agents, such as accountants. This is a problem for many farmers.
The UK's Cabinet Office said it expects take-up to increase as the rural payments exemplar moves into public beta later this year.
But the service had originally intended to be fully live by next month.
According to the Government Digital Service Dashboard, 54 per cent of the users to have registered through Verify have successfully completed the process. There have so far been 17,000 verifications, which also include HMRC's self-assessment and PAYE.
By March 2016, GOV.UK Verify is intended to be the default way for people to prove their identity when using all government digital services.
However, there are currently 42 million Gateway online users, according to another Freedom of Information response sent to El Reg.
While it is likely that individuals will be registered for a number of Gateway services, the scale of moving all these users over to Verify by next year's deadline is clearly enormous.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said:
GOV.UK Verify is a new, innovative way for people to verify their identity online when using government services. It forms a key part of our work to transform government services to make them digital by default.
The service is in the early phase of public use and is yet to go "live". We're collecting feedback from users and continuing to test, monitor, and improve the system. We’re also working with a range of identity providers to ensure we offer choice, control and privacy for users.