The GOV.UK website is to trial to use of online accounts that would allow citizens to log in and use their details to access a comprehensive range of services.
In her maiden speech as the minister responsible for the Government Digital Service, Julia Lopez last week spoke of her plan to introduce a single sign-on system for use across government.
These plans appear to have come to near-immediate fruition, with the announcement that, for a three-month period from the end of October, GOV.UK will trial the use of “personal accounts” for citizens. The aim is that, after registering and providing their details once, citizens will then be able to log in to their account to access a variety of services across a number of different departments.
Based on the data they provide, registrants may also be pointed towards services and information that could be relevant for them. Although the government stressed that “the trial will also allow users to say how they want their data to be used and guarantee that the necessary safeguards are in place to protect their information”.
Both before and after the trial, citizens that do not wish to create an account will not need to do so to continue to access online government services.
“Using accounts on GOV.UK will be beneficial to many people, allowing them to find the services they need much more quickly, and helping them to find out about things they didn’t realise were of benefit to them too,” said the head of GOV.UK, Jen Allum.
“But we know some people will not want an account, so we are making sure that they will still be able to access all services. And we will have strict rules in place to make sure everyone’s data is kept safely and used properly.”
Lopez, a parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, added: “People expect a modern and efficient service when they log on to GOV.UK and allowing people to set up their own accounts will make finding services and interacting with the government much easier.
"I know how annoying it can be to have to input the same information into a website several times or fail to get an important update because you haven’t registered for a particular alert – having a GOV.UK account will prevent that.”
The process of logging in to a number of government services is currently protected by the GOV.UK Verify identity assurance tool. It is not yet clear whether the personal accounts will incorporate Verify or any other form of verification – nor whether the new system may ultimately replace Verify, the future of which has grown increasingly uncertain in recent months.
The Cabinet Office has been approached for more information on how the new system will interact with Verify.
Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister title PublicTechnology, where this article first appeared.