William Heath's blog

New-style government IT, ID Assurance and Kable: a second open letter to Stephen Roberts

Posted on Nov 29th by Harry in Uncategorized

It’s not quite clear what the etiquette is for doing a “letter to the editor” to a firm of analysts if you disagree with what they write (even less so, perhaps, when it’s a firm you founded yourself and worked for for 18 years)…. But I’ve had to do a second open letter to Stephen Roberts at Kable (following an earlier one after Kable’s pretty lamentable prediction about how effective Liam Maxwell might prove in his government role).

Dear Stephen

Kable’s analysis on the ID Assurance contracts (”IT says No2IA”) is disappointing and, I think, ill-informed.

Kable has always served its customers best when it tells them what they need to know, not what they want to hear. The big SIs’ absence from the UK government’s list ID Assurance providers isn’t a failure of the process; it’s the commercially logical outcome of an open procurement for an open scheme which empowers citizens and gives them choice.

You ask the question who the SIs should now partner with, as if that mattered. But they’re largely irrelevant to this. ID Assurance is a service between (at this stage) DWP and individuals; suppliers’ systems will simply have to work with all the IDPs.

The incumbent SIs have a choice about how how to accommodate system changes in their existing contracts, but there’s only so much one can do to make putting in an API seem more complicated than it really is. They don’t have some grand strategic choice or decision to make about how the ID strategy unfolds. There’s a seat at the table for everyone who wishes to be involved in the process and make it work.

It’s disappointing that you spread FUD by saying about Mydex “Some might fear, though, that the former is more activist than it is commercial or scalable.” Yes, Mydex is active on behalf of the rights and empowerment of the individual. But Mydex isnt a campaign; it’s a live service platform, delivered as a Trust Framework listed with the Open Identity Exchange. I have to ask: have you taken the trouble to ask about its service? If you understood just how highly commercial and highly scalable Mydex is you would have to rate us as pretty phenomenal activists for what you write to be true.

If you want to rectify this I suggest you ask to speak to Mydex’ CEO David Alexander (ccd).

All of us, including Kable and its clients need to adapt to the radical improvement in the contemporary realities of government IT. GDS is not a rerun of Transformational Government; it’s altogether more design-oriented, user-oriented, open-source and web-oriented. As a lead commentator on the scene Kable should surely welcome this.

It would be a disservice to your subscribers to imply that a reversion to some sort of “business as usual” is likely.


For info: the Kable analysis in question:

IT says No2IA

As one might expect, mainstream government IT providers were absent from the seven providers
selected  to deliver on Identity Assurance. The appointment is only for 18 months, and the lucky winners will spend most of that period attempting to work out interoperability and delivery issues amongst themselves, before bidding to take part in an August 2013 test and an October pilot.

So who has stepped up to the plate? Verizon has little recognition in Whitehall and Cassidian’s FiReControl was a black mark. Involvement is a reputational gamble worth taking for both. The Post Office and Experian have an interest (as does Ingeus) in keeping the DWP sweet, but more importantly, both of them own relevant data and as identity market-makers in their own right there’s an incentive for them to be there at the start.

Mydex and Digidentity are specialists, and as such would be the most obvious candidates for partnership. Some might fear, though, that the former is more activist than it is commercial or scalable.  The latter, which has good Dutch credentials, already has very strong links to Atos.

Other providers may consider an entry into the framework in 18 months time when (on the questionable assumption that Universal Credit continues on track) some of the thornier issues should have been resolved. For them, a reasonable way of keeping tabs on the whole process could be to engage with tScheme. This rather whiskery trust services approvals initiative has suddenly had a new lease of life, with the Cabinet Office signing up a couple of months ago, and indications are that external certification will be pushed out to this body. BT and IBM have a head start on membership of the body.



One response

  1. On Nov 30th, William said:

    DB writes:

    William, you make a very well expressed rebuttal of the analysis. I would add the minor comment, that it is not always necessary for a big SI to prime a deal. I know there are issues of liability and ‘who does Government sue if things go bad’ but that is no reason to have them prime. After all their size and track record as SI is no qualification to provide what is a ground breaking new service.

    DWP is correct to choose organisations that had the capability to deliver and need to be applauded on the diversity of the selected suppliers.

    It should also be pointed out that Deloitte are a 50% owner of one player and the Post Office could deliver nothing if Logica and Fujitsu were not behind their service. SIs have their part to play.

    Finally, this is a consumer proposition. This is not B2B (the space in which SIs play). When it comes to trust and brand recognition who would think of going to IBM to have their identity verified?

    The Kable editor needs to catch up with the real world and perhaps take a moment to realise that public sector procurement has changed for good.

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