SureCert | Digital identity and background checking

Is the UK ready for the government digital identity rollout?


After many years of paper-based bureaucracy, the agreed process for organisations across all sectors to confirm peoples’ identities has just changed unequivocally. It’s time to go digital.

Thanks to newly introduced government legislation, employers and landlords will be able to use certified Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) service providers, such as SureCert, to carry out digital identity checks on their behalf.

The initial roll-out of this technology for Right to Work, Right to Rent, and Disclose and Barring Service checks forms part of a wider Government initiative that will allow people to quickly prove their identity using digital methods and businesses to then verify that identity easily through a digital tool.

Digital identities are now considered as trusted and secure as official paper documents – such as passports and driving licences – reducing the time, effort, expense, and risk that sharing physical documents can have.

What is digital identity?

Digital identity, also known as online or social identity, is the means by which a business can prove that an individual is who they say they are with a quick and full proof process that includes confirming that the identity exists from a range of digital sources, proving the identity document’s validity and then matching a “selfie” against the photographic element of an identity document.

Providing proof of identity in the digital realm is a complex yet essential process that could provide benefits to businesses of all shapes and sizes, from regulatory bodies and governments to banks, insurance companies, and those accessing credit scores and criminal records.

Case in point, the COVIDCert NI App, which included SureCert’s digital identity solution, was introduced to meet the Department of Health’s need, in conjunction with NI Direct, to confirm a large number of identities in a short space of time.

Almost one million people have been successfully verified by SureCert since November 2021, making it one of Northern Ireland’s largest digital identity rollouts and proving the societal need for digital verification solutions.

Now, over 61% of the Northern Irish population have a reusable digital identity that can be utilised to access other Government services.

Global usage

While the use of digital identity is a relatively new concept in Northern Ireland and the UK, countries across the world have been making use of the technology with tremendous success.

Denmark’s domestic digital identity scheme has reached nearly 100% adoption, and all Estonians have a state-issued digital identity which can be used to vote online, sign contracts, access their health information, and more.

Although the UK Government has only really begun its digital identity in the last number of years, the global identification market is currently estimated to be more than £15 billion, and the learnings and victories of previous schemes will be a great help in ensuring its success.

Digital identity rollout

The plans may seem small compared to rollouts in other countries across the world, but there are an estimated 2 million employers across the UK and a further 2.5 million landlords that will benefit from the initial change in legislation.

This pilot scheme will eventually lead to the Government establishing a robust and secure accreditation process so organisations can clearly prove they are meeting the highest security and privacy standards needed to use digital identities.

This is crucial to ensure that citizens and businesses trust digital identification and the transition to using it is smooth, allowing everyone to choose which forms of digital identity work for them.

Implications for businesses

From utilising digital identity to buying age-restricted products, to registering to vote, confirming citizenship, completing background checks, hiring cars, and even paying bills, the uses for digital identity in a digital society are endless.

It is widely agreed that one of the biggest benefits to come from using digital identity is mitigating risk.

Digital identity verification systems, such as SureCert, can offer more safety and security with heightened levels of privacy and fraud management, improved protection of customer data, and the ability to provide a multi-layered and flexible response to rapidly evolving threats.

Another benefit of embracing digital identity in a business setting is removing the need for manual checks and eliminating the potential for human error.

At an average of 6.4 seconds per check, SureCert is significantly faster than manual methods – and that doesn’t account for the time it takes the user to find and send the required supplementary or supporting paperwork. This demands less input from employees whose time could be better utilised in other areas of the business.

It is also an incredible cost-saving tool, providing identity verification for eight times less the cost of that incurred via traditional methods.

In addition, digital identities can not only help businesses reach their sustainability and economic goals by replacing hard-copy paper documents with virtual alternatives, but also achieve company-wide efficiencies with the ability to verify all nationalities – SureCert recognised documents from 151 different countries as part of the COVIDCertNI project – remove any problems that arise from time zones, unrecognised documents, and foreign languages, 24/7.

Next steps

With a new Office for Digital Identities and Attributes being established, it can be assumed that the digital identity roll out in the UK will level-up rapidly.

Major next steps include confirming that the legal validity of digital forms of identification are equal to physical forms of identification, such as passports and driving licenses, and are widely accepted by a plethora of industries.

The digital era is here to stay, and while there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to implementing digital identification, the need for effective management is crucial to ensure society embraces opportunities for digital growth, innovation, increased capabilities, and higher efficiency.

For more information about SureCert, and to see how it can help your business, contact us.