GOV.UK login system received £100m funding in Spending Review

Head of Central Digital and Data Office says that her team worked closely with Treasury colleagues to ensure tech initiatives were supported by funding round
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By Sam Trendall

23 Nov 2021

The new government-wide online login system will be supported with more than £100m of funding over the next three years.

Led by the Government Digital Service, the One Login project is intended to create a single, unifying system to replace a patchwork of almost 200 separate accounts and 44 different login methods currently in use across departments and services.

As part of which, GDS will develop a GOV.UK smartphone app through which citizens will be able to access a comprehensive range of online citizen services from delivered by ministries and agencies. 

The recent Spending Review include a pledge that GDS would be given “funding to progress the development of One Login”, but did not include a figure for how much had been awarded.

In a newly published letter to the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, head of government’s Centra Digital and Data Office Joanna Davinson revealed that more than £100m has been committed by HM Treasury for the three-year period beginning in April 2022.

This includes £75m of resource funding – which is provided for day-to-day operations – as well as £30m to support upfront capital costs.

The CDDO chief, who was writing in response to an earlier request from MPs for further detail on “how we plan to reflect the need to address data and IT issues when prioritising bids for the Spending Review”, said that, in the build-up to the funding exercise, her agency had supported the Treasury in providing sufficient backing for key digital and IT projects throughout government.

“During this Spending Review, the Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office worked closely with HM Treasury to provide spending teams with expert input and advice on the prioritisation of digital, data and technology spending bids submitted by departments,” she said. “This included highlighting particular challenges and priorities for investment within departments, and assessing the criticality, technical feasibility, and deliverability of DDaT bids.”

Davinson added: “This advice was provided in accordance with an assessment framework shaped around critical digital and data priorities. Priorities took into consideration requirements around themes such as legacy IT, automation and services, data exchange, talent and capability, and performance and assurance. The ambition was that this specialist advice would help ensure that critical priorities were assessed with the right strategic and technical context.”

Other significant funding outcomes highlighted in her letter include £461m in capital funding for the Home Office to deliver its Future Borders and Immigration System, £100m for the Foreign Commonwealth and Development to invest in “improvements to its technology platform and cyber security infrastructure”, and £468m for HM Revenue and Customs “to reduce the risk of system failures, enhance the department’s ability to defend against cyberattacks and support the continued digitisation and modernisation of the tax system”.

First announced in September 2020, the One Login project is intended to replace all the 191 accounts and sign-in systems currently in use throughout government – not least the little-loved GOV.UK Verify identity assurance tool that was conceived to serve a similar purpose, but has always suffered from tepid uptake from citizens and departments, latterly compounded by a dwindling pool of commercial partners.

Giving evidence to PAC recently, GDS chief executive Tom Read told MPs that, in building the new system, the digital agency is consciously working to avoid the mistakes made during the development of its predecessor. 

“With the Verify programme, the technology approach and the overall design was baked in right at the beginning,” he said. “What wasn’t done is proper, iterative testing with real users to see if that [approach] worked – and we now know that it doesn’t work for around half of the users who use it.”

Read added: “What we are doing instead [for One Login] is working with departments across government – with the frontline of departments – to say: ‘let’s learn more about how your users work, and we will build a solution for that works for that set of those users’. Then we will go to the next set of users to see if that works and, if not, we will need to pivot and will need a slightly different solution.”

About the author
Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@dodsgroup.com.
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