I often find it hard to believe that in an age of ubiquitous smart phones, each with voice recognition software and either facial recognition or finger print scanner included, that I so often have to prove who I am in person by taking along passports, utility bills and driving licenses with me to be checked. Not only is this an obvious frustration for me as a customer, it is also a costly and inefficient business – existing identity checks are often manual, and therefore can be prone to error.  Existing identity processes are also not as secure as we might like – identity fraud is a big and growing problem.

And in a world that has moved so significantly online, the inability to easily prove who I am, conveniently and securely in a digital way, is a big problem.  The kind of problem that digital identity schemes are being created in so many places around the world to solve. But not yet in the UK.

The white paper released by OIX this week, Digital Identity in the UK: The cost of doing nothing, is an analysis of what the cost might be of doing nothing further to develop a better digital identity solution for the UK.

There are of course some good and valid reasons why developing a digital identity scheme has proven to be very challenging.  The complexity of agreeing liability arrangements for many regulated organisations has proven a tough nut to crack, at least so far. There are potentially regulatory challenges that certainly require further work.  And at present there is no one clear vision of what success might look like.

However, the costs of continued inaction are significant, and felt across a wide variety of sectors, and for business, government, consumers and UK plc alike.

At a very simple level, there are likely to be significant direct savings due to the increased efficiency of a digital identity service, as opposed to existing complex or manual processes. Also, the identity fraud that currently exists can, at least in part be tackled by better ways to establish a person’s identity, particularly online.

There is also significant value to be created, as well as cost savings, which the UK continues to miss out on. There are undoubtedly costs involved in developing a scheme, however they are dwarfed by the likely benefits in terms of new identity services and the creation of a bigger market for identity solutions. And digital identity is a value multiplier, as a catalyst of facilitator for further innovation elsewhere in the digital economy.

There is an undoubted cost to doing nothing in the identity space, yet inaction is often an easier decision to take; at least until the cost of doing nothing proves too great to bear.

Ewan Willars, Innovate Identity

April 2018