GDS floats two £2m contracts to progress single sign-on plans

Digital agency seeks support with authentication and architecture of new government-wide system

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

The Government Digital Service is progressing with plans to develop a single sign-on for use across online government services and is seeking suppliers to provide £4m in support for the development of security and infrastructure.

GDS has published two contract notices, each of which invites bids for an opportunity worth up to £1.95m to the winning bidder.

Both contracts relate to the ongoing programme of work to develop a single account through which citizens can access services across government. Once it is implemented, this platform is intended to replace an existing patchwork of more than 100 differing identity and sign-on tools – including the GOV.UK Verify assurance service.

The first contract notice seeks a supplier to help “deliver the authentication and identity components of the single sign-on service, and begin service migration in FY22/23”.

The second invites bids from providers that can “develop and implement the architecture and technical elements of the service, and support service migration”.

Both contracts are scheduled to begin on 15 September and last for 18 months, although each will include a break clause at the 12-month mark. 

Work can be delivered remotely and the chosen suppliers “will be expected to work collaboratively within a wider team of civil servants, contractors and suppliers throughout the contract term”.

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The contract notices said: “Knowledge transfer will be required to enable GDS to improve internal capability to build and support services.”

The firms will join a project that has “completed the alpha phase of development, and is ready to move into private beta”.

Bids for the two deals are open until midnight on 10 August.

Separately, GDS has awarded a six-month contract to Hippo Digital, which will assist with “research, experimentation and prototyping [to] help us to test our assumptions and hypotheses relating to GOV.UK account and personalisation”.

This work, which began on 29 June, will have “a particular focus on user experience of bringing together multiple interactions with government services into one account and the opportunities and challenges of personalising GOV.UK”.

The engagement will be worth £835,275 to the Leeds-based transformation specialist.

In procurement documents, GDS said that the single sign-one system is needed because “many users don’t understand the differences between… logins, and are confused about which ones they already have”.

“Some services need to carry out digital identity checks to make sure the people wanting to access them are who they claim to be,” the digital agency said. “However, people without easy access to official documents, like passports and driving licences, are too often excluded from these simple, online routes. As government services become increasingly digital and accessing in-person ones now often relies on some kind of online interaction – like booking an appointment – it’s vital that access is as inclusive as possible.”

It added: “At the same time, departments delivering government services currently have to build or buy their own sign-on and identity services, resulting in people having to enter the same information time and again when accessing multiple services. Running multiple systems in this way also leads to added cost to the taxpayer and, because it is hard for different services to share information with each other, reduced capability for government to tackle fraudulent access to its services in a joined-up way.”


Sam Trendall

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