Government to launch Gov.uk app

A Gov.uk app is to be launched as part of government plans to consolidate citizen access to government services.

Speaking at the GovTech summit in London today (13 October), Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay announced the new tool, introduced to consolidate government services in one place. The app is described as an improvement on the previous set-up, whereby usernames and passwords needed to be created for individual services.

Barclay said the app provides a better user experience, streamlining the multiple online processes to access services. According to the government, there are 191 different ways for people to set up accounts to access services through Gov.uk, with 44 different sign-in methods.

“Now, more than ever, it is important that government responds to people’s heightened expectations about the services they use,” he said. “During the pandemic, people have had to interact with public services in a variety of new ways, including the NHS app and the vaccine booking service.”

Rumours around the launch of a digital platform to access online government services had been gathering momentum since September 2021, when senior government leaders presented on the topic at London Tech Week. Despite the Government Digital Service’s (GDS’s) anti-app stance for several years, the sharp increase in downloads of the NHS app and the Covid-19 contact-tracing app has contributed to driving the government towards a single digital identity project.

The government noted that use of the app will be optional, and that the tool has been developed according to “robust data protection principles” to enable citizens to stay in control of their data. However, there are concerns over the creation of a centralised platform mapping personal identity verification data onto the various services provided by the government.

Future development of the Gov.uk app will see the GDS work with all government departments to add “as many services as possible” to the platform. Speaking to Computer Weekly in June about the privacy sensitivity of One Login, the government’s new digital identity programme, GDS chief executive Tom Read said integration of data relating to service provision would be optional for users concerned about privacy.

In June 2021, GDS launched Real User Monitoring (RUM), which delivers detailed information to Gov.uk on how a government website is performing to its 335 million annual users, based on information about the device and browser they are using as well as their internet connection. At the time, GDS said RUM only collects anonymous data if users consent to use of that data via cookies for analytics purposes, and users can opt out of having the information about their visits collected.

Barclay said people “rightly expect government to be data-driven and digitally literate”, and stressed that this has been a priority for him since taking up his current role in September.

Also at the GovTech summit, Barclay announced the members of a new digital advisory board, created to accelerate digital change across government and give advice to ministers on digital-related matters.

The members of the new board are: James Bilefield, a chairman and board director at organisations such as SThree, MoneySupermarket, Stagecoach, Teach First and the Science Museum; Zaka Mian, former group transformation director at Lloyds Banking Group; Monique Shivanandan, chief information security officer at HSBC; and Matthew Timms, chief digital and information officer at energy firm E.ON.