7 months of Kantara Identity Assurance in the UK

We asked our Executive Director, Kay Chopard, for her thoughts and learnings from working through the first phase of the UK Digital Identity & Attributes Framework (DIATF):

“It is nearly 7 months since UKAS announced the 5 organisations that would certify Identity Service Providers (IDSPs) against the UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework under an initial assessment program.

Digital identity and the provision of trusted credentials will be a vital component in the delivery of future public – and private – services. Through our global identity certification work, we observe first-hand just how quickly the digital identity market is growing. We have been certifying an increasing number of IDSPs against global standards as opportunities for digital identity expand and I’ve noticed, especially, the drive from sectors where identity verification is NOT mandated by regulation – for instance in healthcare. At Kantara Initiative, we have been running identity assessment programs across the world for nearly 15 years.  In the UK, 17 identity proofing organisations have now been certified to provide services within the Framework. To support this growth, I believe we should consider the following points:

Future-proofing the identity ecosystem

We have been proud to work with the Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), UKAS and our certification clients over the past 6 months as the DIATF has moved from the Alpha to Beta phase. Organisations that were certified in the first few months were assessed against the Alpha version of the framework. Our certification clients, however, are assessed against the Beta version of the DIATF as this is already much more robust and includes more fully defined assessment criteria. 

As the program continues to evolve we will identify further assessment criteria that will be vital to roll out robust, trusted, identity solutions that will work for future use cases. Our auditors are dedicated identity specialists with experience across multiple sectors. They have shared with me that the DIATF will continue to benefit from the experiences of other programs across the world – what has worked and what hasn’t.  This is vital, especially if we are to support those identity organisations that are planning for international expansion. The UK’s DIATF cannot exist in geographic isolation; individual customers and citizens will eventually require a digital identity that is portable. The DIATF should support organisations in providing this.

One size doesn’t fit all

This first wave of assessments has shown very quickly that each certification client operates quite differently and so a simple “tick box” approach to assessment will not work. We are often asked for a fixed price for our certification services, but I would argue that a fixed price indicates a fixed approach – and a fixed mindset. The underlying assessment criteria must, of course, be met consistently. But each organisation operates differently, and the Kantara ‘modular’ approach ensures each element of the process can be audited in line with requirements AND the business’ operating model. This also supports DCMS’ current model of having separate use cases. As new cases come online, we will continue to add in new assessments that support growth.

Challenge through collaboration

We are a not-for-profit organisation. While commerciality is an important focus, it is more significant that we continue to develop our understanding of emerging trends and issues across all markets. We have been encouraged by the response of parliamentarians, digital identity industry leaders, influencers and media to the Kantara approach and we have appointed a number of key assessors who bring with them experiences of specific sectors, territories and regulatory environments. 

Most recently, the appointment of Emma Lindley MBE, Alison McDowell and Andrew Hindle to our UK Advisory Board was a deliberate move to ensure we continue to be challenged and stay abreast of the issues our clients face. 

Our role on the Kantara UK Advisory Board is to provide independent thinking and guidance to Kantara’s UK team. As a UK citizen who has worked in the identity sector for over 20 years, I believe we can help ensure the customer is constantly “in the room” and at the heart of any discussions around the future of the digital identity framework.” (Andrew Hindle, Kantara UK Advisor, Content Chair at Identiverse and Founding Board Member at IDPro.).

“There is now a clear vision for a digital identity market that is both open and competitive. The DIATF is intended to create choice, improve quality and increase innovation – ultimately improving customer experiences for the UK citizen and reducing the cost for UK PLC. Kantara Initiative has a vital role to play in delivering this vision.” (Emma Lindley MBE, Co-Founder of Women in Identity and MD, International Expansion, at CAF)

Going forward, we believe it is vital that certification bodies continue to work with DCMS and UKAS in a spirit of partnership – bringing together the cumulative value of dozens of great minds! To this end, we have  been encouraged by the proactive approach of DCMS in creating forums where the 5 certification bodies can discuss ideas and feedback on the program in action.