“Revolution not Evolution”; words taken from the UK Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox in her 2010 report to Francis Maude. The report focused on how the government can use the Internet both to communicate and interact better with citizens and to deliver significant efficiency savings from channel shift. It states that the acid test is whether websites, in this case DirectGOV, can empower, and make life simpler for citizens and at the same time allow government to turn other paper based processes off.

These principles apply to the private sector too. The move online, away from paper processes, will only happen if it makes life simpler for UK consumers, less hassle and delivers greater efficiency.
As we know digital identity is a core enabler of this digital transformation, creating trusted transactions to allow people to move online safely and securely.

This is why as part of the transformation of DirectGOV, the GOV.UK Verify scheme was set up and launched. Taking identity services which have been built by the private sector and enabling a procurement process, so Government can buy these services from the market. Therefore allowing citizens to move freely with a transportable digital identity.

With five existing identity providers, one wonders now we are past the second procurement, what this will bring, and what will the new identity providers arriving in the marketplace provide us in terms of innovation in this area?

What is clear is digital identity is a complex problem. For example what happens when individuals don’t have the identity documentation needed to create a digital identity of sufficient levels of assurance? Or they don’t have the skills to complete an online transaction and need assistance? These are problems for both the public and private sector and have the ability to affect uptake of digital transactions.

There are many organisations including government and the Open Identity Exchange looking at this, but its innovation that’s needed to change the status quo and solve this problem.

New companies joining the identity ecosystem may hold the answer, those that are far from the “usual suspects”. Banks, mobile network operators and retailers are all looking at the identity space with keen interest.

An example of this is the Timpson Group who recently joined the Open Identity Exchange. Timpson believe they too can help the identity ecosystem. So where would a retailer like Timpson fit in, and why would they think they can play a part in the identity ecosystem today?

Enabling the creation of digital identity isn’t just for those that are familiar with using a computer or those that have an existing electronic footprint. Having somewhere that people can go if they are unable to complete the electronic process for whatever reason is going to be key to enable the digital world. Retailers such as Timpson, have a large store network and reach directly into the heart of local towns and cities. This store network can provide somewhere people can visit when they need someone to help them through the identity or digital sign up process. In person identity proofing or collection of attributes could also be done in a store for those people who might be considered “thin file” or otherwise. It’s also this face to face experience that allows retailers like Timpson to provide an “arm around” the customer assisting them with challenges they may have with an online application process.

With this in mind these types of new organisation are looking at the identity space and their place in it as an enabler, and starting to test their propositions.

The Open Identity Exchange is a great place for new entrants to do this testing in an agile way. This kind of testing is done with real users to gain feedback and help the development of such a service. The feedback from potential users allows new entrants to understand when they need to pivot the proposition, or if it has the “WOW” factor.

So retailers like Timpson Group, far from common perception of just carrying on with their core business, are opening our eyes to how they could be potential players too in this vibrant identity ecosystem.

Channel shift will occur if it makes life simpler for UK consumers, less hassle and delivers greater efficiency. This can only happen in the identity ecosystem if new players join, with innovation and ideas that enable users and challenge the status quo…