GOV.UK Verify gets ‘health check’

Cyber specialist awarded £14,000 six-month contract

Credit: George Hodan/Public domain

The GOV.UK Verify identity-assurance tool is in the midst of a six-month ‘health check’.

Newly published procurement documents reveal that the Government Digital Service, which developed Verify, awarded a six-month deal to Fidus Information Security. The contract came into effect on 14 December and will be worth £14,000 to the cyber consultancy and penetration testing specialist. An earlier contract published by GDS mistakenly reported the value of contract as £1.4m, but this has now been corrected.

Details of the services that will be provided are scarce, other than the specification that Fidus is to provide an “IT health check for GOV.UK Verify”.

The identity-assurance platform – which has, since its conception, been dogged by delays and tepid uptake – is facing an uncertain future with government funding for the technology due to end in September.

It had been due to cease in March 2020, with responsibility for its future development to be handed over to the tool’s private-sector identity-provider partners. 

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But, during the first wave of the coronavirus crisis demand for Verify skyrocketed owing to its use in the sign-up process for Universal Credit. The platform initially struggled to cope with a volume of new sign-ups that reached as many as 10,000 per day.

The strain placed on the technology was compounded by the fact that three of its five commercial identity providers stopped allowing the creation of new accounts. Support for existing accounts continues for now, but this too is due to end in March.

What will happen to Verify beyond the current September cut-off date for public funding is unclear

Although its use in government services and citizen adoption has significantly lagged expectations, it still has almost eight million accounts, and its key role in some government services – particularly the application process for Universal Credit – means that government will either need to effectively replace it, or ensure it has sufficient support to continue.

Sam Trendall

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