British citizens will one day store their financial data on a single ‘super app’ similar to the National Health Service (NHS) app rolled out by the government in 2018, the chair of trade association UK Finance has said.
A member of both the Trade Advisory Group for Financial Services at the UK Department for International Trade and the UK’s Economic Crime Strategic Board, Bob Wigley voiced his prediction at the ‘New Digital Assets and Money Symposium’ event in the City of London.
He said he believed the UK would roll out an app that records each citizen’s economic footprint, including credit ratings, ‘know-your-customer’ information and anti-money laundering data.
“This will be the year that we finally persuade the banking system that we need an economic digital identity system, just like the NHS app,” Wigley said on 7 February. “[It] will be personal and attached to each citizen as we need a wider fully digital economic identity programme.”
He warned that if the government did not seize the opportunity to produce an economic super app, “the big tech platforms will do it”, adding “we should be designing it”.
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The proposal for a financial digital ID app takes inspiration from the NHS App, through which people can book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and access their health records. The app was used extensively during the Covid-19 pandemic, primarily to verify citizens’ vaccination status. It has been downloaded by 30 million people.
An economic equivalent would centralise personal financial data, allowing citizens to access financial services from any bank or insurance firm with ease. “It would be something each person would carry with them and they could then connect it to any platform or financial institution that they operate with,” Wigley said.
Onwards and app-wards
The UK government is already working on creating a digital ID through its One Login programme. The aim is to allow citizens to access online government services via a single account. A previous attempt, GOV.UK Verify, was wound down having suffered technical problems and low take-up.
The One Login programme, established by the Government Digital Service (GDS), has been underway since plans were set out by then Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez in March 2021. Tested on target users in August last year, the three-year £400m ($488m) project is designed to replace more than 190 existing sign-in options and 44 separate accounts.
In December 2021, an update to the plan highlighted a shift in users’ expectations of service delivery, including the use of mobile applications.
The government said an app would ‘give smartphone users who have a photo ID… the choice to prove their identity to a high level in around 10 minutes’, using near-field communication (NFC) readers and cameras built into modern smartphones.
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Natalie Jones, the director of digital identity at GDS, said that the unit wanted to provide “a superhighway for users who can and want to use their mobile to apply for government services” and that to enable this, GDS was “building an identity-checking app”.
She emphasised that use of the app would be “optional” and that there would be a number of ways in which people could “prove their identity based on their preferences and documents available”.
The One Login app is being developed in partnership with global consultancy firm Deloitte.
Last month, the Cabinet Office launched a public consultation to help steer government’s plan towards making citizens’ online verification easier using digital ID.
The consultation aims to gather views on how data sharing between departments could work under a proposed amendment to the UK’s 2017 Digital Economy Act. It is due to close on 1 March.
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This article was first published by our sister title Global Government Forum