The modern alternative to Government Gateway

GOV.UK Verify is the new way to prove who you are when you’re accessing secure government services online. It’s the latest innovation in the UK Government’s digital story that started at the end of the last century.

The origins of digital government and the rise of the Government Gateway

To really set the scene let’s remember what online looked like at the turn of the millennium.

The year is 2000. The world has just dodged the IT meltdown we all expected from the millennium bug and the average office worker is now using email at work almost every day. Digital pioneers dine out on stories that they have ordered books online from something called Amazon.com and a social network called FriendsReunited is about to launch and change the way we think about the internet forever. Facebook is yet to be invented.

It’s in this smartphone free, unconnected world that the UK Government introduces the world’s most ambitious digital change strategy of its time.

The vision was to have 100 per cent of government services online by 2005.

The vision

The Government wanted to create a centralised service for all e-Government services in the UK. This would allow citizens to access multiple public services online. No government in the world was doing more to meet the anticipated demand for digital.

The first version of Government Gateway’s registration and enrolment service was launched in 2001. The first fully operational service available allowed the UK’s first digital citizens to file tax returns online.

A model system

By 2007, with 11 million users, Government Gateway had established its place as a word-class example of digital government service delivery.  The Gateway was handling 20 million transactions across different departments every year and counting.

The positive sentiment continued. Copycat systems started to appear in other parts of the world such as the Czech Republic.

By 2012, Government Gateway had exceeding even its own expectations. It allowed UK citizens to access 166 services across a total of 55 government departments. The UK government had created a digital environment that supported a staggering 50 million users.

GOV.UK Verify launches

Now if you wish to access government services online the new way is to use GOV.UK Verify.

The Cabinet Office started work on the GOV.UK Verify system in 2011 (back then it was known as the Identity Assurance Programme, or IDAP).  Between 2011 and May 2016 the system went through a phase of  private, then public Betas to become the live public service we know today.

GOV.UK Verify is designed to deliver the simple secure online experience that today’s internet user expects. To use services at GOV.UK, UK citizens just need to set up an identity account with a certified identity provider like SecureIdentity. Unlike the old registration process used at Government Gateway, registering is completed online without the need to wait for any passwords or login details in the post.

You can see all the services available to GOV.UK Verify users here. More services are joining GOV.UK Verify all the time so if you’ve already registered for SecureIdentity and you’re finding it useful, expect to find it even more useful as new services are added.

Read more: why replace Government gateway?

Beginner’s guide to certified companies and GOV.UK Verify

GOV.UK is the new online home for Government services right? So why aren’t all aspects of it being run by the government? Up until now, the Government hasn’t asked us to choose from a list of private companies when we needed to prove who we were on line, so what’s changed?

Digital access to government services is being overhauled and updated for the 21st Century. If you’ve become used to shopping or banking on line then you’ll like the new processes being introduced at GOV.UK, but you’ll notice some changes and you’ll probably have questions (See our FAQ section).

One of the first things you’ll notice is that you need to choose a “certified company” to verify your identity before you can access the private services you want. This is one aspect of the new system that many people struggle to understand. Over the past six months, as part of our research and development programme for SecureIdentity,  we’ve spoken to thousands of UK citizens. The question of why people are being asked to choose from a list of private companies when they want to verify their ID and access services at GOV.UK comes up time and again.

When you think about it, it’s actually not all that unusual. These days, when you’re shopping on line, it’s pretty common to be directed to a third party once you get to the checkout. Online retailers specialise in the merchandise they sell and the range they offer. They are less well-equipped to guarantee secure credit card transactions, so they usually partner with a specialist like Worldpay or Sage Pay.

You might say the people at GOV.UK think in a similar way. Their commitment is to make sure that the best range of services are always easily available to citizens on line. To make sure that access to these services is always secure and straightforward, they’ve partnered with private companies that have expertise in securing identity online.

Competition delivers greater security

By offering citizens a choice of certified companies, the Government has created a competitive market for ID verification at GOV.UK. This ensures healthy competition and it puts you in control. At SecureIdentity we’re one of nine verification services you can choose from and we understand how critical it is to deliver the secure, straightforward service you need.

Each certified company has a track record in online security solutions or some aspect of online transactions where safeguarding data is a sensitive and critical issue. All of them meet the certification requirements set out by the Government.

Putting you in control

The first time you use GOV.UK Verify to access services, you’ll be given a choice of nine certified verification companies to obtain your own personal secure ID, so there’s plenty of choice. Choice is always great, but since the idea of choosing a certified company to keep your identity safe is new, how do you choose? Get a heads-up by reading our 5 things to know before choosing a GOV.UK Verify certified identity supplier.

5 things to know before choosing a GOV.UK Verify certified identity provider

If you want to access secure services at GOV.UK you need have a secure ID account. But it’s not the government that supplies you with this secure ID, it’s a private company.

SecureIdentity is one of seven services “certified” by Government to verify your ID and protect your privacy at GOV.UK.

As part of our development programme, we’ve spoken to thousands of people who expect to start using GOV.UK soon.

Whenever we explain the new GOV.UK Verify process to them the first questions they always ask us are: Why are private companies involved and how do I choose between them?

Why are seven different companies offering ID verification at GOV.UK?

The Government knows that security online is changing all the time. It believes that the best way to make sure that citizens can benefit from the very latest security is to introduce competition.

That’s why they’ve certified a number of services to validate your ID at GOV.UK Verify. The Government explains the idea of certified companies like this:

“Certified companies (also known as ‘identity providers’) are organisations that have met government and industry standards to provide identity assurance services as part of GOV.UK Verify”

In a competitive market, with seven different companies competing for your “business”, you can be pretty sure that the most advanced security systems will always be on offer.

How do I choose between the certified companies?

The idea of choosing a certified company to keep your identity safe is new.

At the moment, it’s pretty difficult to know what you should be looking for when you need to choose a provider to create your secure online identity. On the face of it, all providers might look very much the same.

Some basics you should know before you choose a certified company at GOV.UK Verify

No matter which provider you choose, the verification process will take about 10 minutes. Since all providers meet certification standards set out by the Government, you can be sure that any provider you choose has already convinced the Government that they’re up to the job and should be able to safely protect your identity online.

The big differences between suppliers will only become apparent in time. It’s a little bit like when the Government privatised BT and created competition in the UK telecoms market. At first, it was quite difficult to see any difference in the services provided, but these days, BT looks quite different to Virgin Media or TalkTalk.

When we ask people why they choose SecureIdentity, they say they like the fact we’re secure identity specialists who have been working with Governments behind the scenes to protect citizen’s privacy for over 20 years. They like that the security features we can offer go way beyond the standards set out by GOV.UK for certified identity providers, and they like the fact that we don’t do lots of other stuff too, like retail, banking, consumer credit or credit checking services.

But SecureIdentity is not the only choice and it’s not everyone’s choice. Some like the idea of having a secure ID with a company they already use for other things, like banking or online shopping.

What is clear is that almost everyone just wants the process of verifying their identity at GOV.UK to be as simple and straightforward as possible. So here are five facts worth knowing before you choose an ID provider at GOV.UK Verify.

Choosing a certified identity provider for GOV.UK Verify: 5 Key things to know

  1. All services are free.
  2. All certified providers meet government defined standards.
  3. The verify process will always take about 10 minutes regardless of supplier.
  4. You’ll need to have some form of ID to hand, like a passport or a UK driving licence.
  5. You can change your supplier at no cost whenever you want.

Why replace Government Gateway with GOV.UK Verify?

The government has been looking closely at how the new connected world can enable improved, more straightforward access to government services for UK citizens. It has also been looking closely at online security; how it can best handle people’s personal information sensitively and provide the reassurance that their data is safe when they enter it online.

Making it all easier and more secure

The entry point to local and national government services – the way you got in and were asked to prove who you were – has traditionally been through the Government Gateway. You might already have used it. If you have, then you may well be one of the 65% of people who say that, getting access to the government services you need today is  a bit tedious. The multi-stage approach to proving who you are on the Government Gateway was appropriate when the system was launched some years ago, but now it needs a refresh. The Government Gateway scheme is now being gradually replaced by GOV.UK Verify, which aims to provide a faster and more secure service, for most of its previous functions.

Providing better digital service

For about 15 years this entry system – where you sign in and prove you are who you say you are –  worked how it was supposed to, but the world around us has changed.

How we connect and interact with online services has changed. Now we thrive on getting things done quicker, in a secure online environment, with far less hassle:

Faster

We all expect faster responses when we’re online. We demand easier access, and less fuss. Technology has made it all possible. You can shop online, run your bank account online, book flights, arrange holidays, pay bills.

There’s no reason why your interactions with government services can’t be just as smooth and straightforward as they are with any other organisation you connect with online.

Safer

This is the main reason why the government has engaged with a range of leading technology firms.

Using external expert companies is going to make sure that the procedures you go through when you prove who you are at GOV.UK  are always at the cutting edge of smart technology and that that latest advancements in secure online verification will always be freely available to people when they use the new Government services portal. This makes everything more straightforward.

Simpler

Today we expect to achieve much more online. Our expectations of what should be able to do when we access Government service via the web is much more joined up.

We want straightforward access to the entitlements that are due to us (like tax credits or benefits) and when we need things from other Government departments (like a new passport or a visa) we expect the relationships we have already established with one aspect of Government to speed up our requests and help us get what we need faster. The new GOV.UK Verify process enables you to register and prove who you are  once and after that, never have to jump through the same hoops again.

In a nutshell, this is what UK GOV Verify has been designed and built to offer – simple and secure access; taking the hassle out of using the numerous services you call upon through various government departments – from passport renewals to benefits and tax returns through to registering births, deaths, and marriages. All these things have to be done – now they’re just going to be easier to do.