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Testing delayed on HMG's "One Login" project

Public testing should have started in March, but has been held back.

Public testing of One Login has been delayed from its planned late-March start, as Deloitte wins another contract to work on the government login programme.

This £9m contract is the second awarded to Deloitte for work on One Login - which aims to provide a single identity for users of all online government services - following an earlier £4.8m deal to develop the One Login apps for Apple and Android.

The latest contract names the consultancy firm as a “delivery partner” for the project. Leeds-based digital design agency Hippo is the government’s other partner for One Login, working on UX and technical aspects.

Delivery so far is slightly behind schedule; in an update dated 7 March from the Cabinet Office, the government said it planned to release a “minimum viable product” version of the One Login system for testing by the end of March.

“[Spending Review 2021] announced funding to progress development of ‘One Login’, a new system that will provide one way for users to sign in, prove their identity and access central government services online. This work is on track for the public testing of feature-complete software to go live by 31 March 2022,” said the Cabinet Office update.

But The Stack understands the release for public One Login testing has been delayed, in order to ensure the system is up to scratch. There was no suggestion on when public testing might now start.

See also: Gov says new UK digital ID plans could add £5bn to economy

Given the complexity of the challenge to create an identity system which will – eventually, in theory – work across all UK government systems, a delay in One Login testing is not unexpected. And given Deloitte’s delivery partner contract only started on 24 March 2022, just seven days before testing was due to start, it seems as if the consultants are not responsible for the delay.

The delivery partner contract notice made the need for One Login clear: “People are still asked to sign in and prove their identity in different ways to access different services. From our own research we know that many users don't understand the differences between these logins, and are confused about which ones they already have.

“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,” the notice added.

Departments ditch Verify a year early

Currently around half of the 370 different services on GOV.UK have their own login systems. The government’s previous attempt to unify logins, Verify, saw development halted in 2021, after eight years of work.

Even though Verify was due to keep running until April 2023, some government departments are already abandoning it. According to this consumer affairs piece in the Guardian, HMRC is now asking users to create a Government Gateway account – which can only be done if users have a UK passport or Northern Ireland driving licence.

The Guardian article illustrates the severe need for a single government identity approach: “Extraordinarily, [HMRC] claimed that only Northern Ireland driving licences were acceptable ID because the DVLA did not permit HMRC to access British drivers’ records. Why? Because, according to the DVLA, HMRC didn’t request access until a fortnight ago.”

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