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Government Identity Assurance Head Latest To Step Down

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Janet Hughes’ departure from the Government Digital Service is part of a wider Whitehall digital shakeup

Janet Hughes, who as director of the government’s identity assurance programme has overseen the development of the GOV.UK Verify platform, has announced she is to leave the Government Digital Service (GDS) at the end of this week.

Hughes’ departure follows that of GDS chief executive Stephen Foreshew-Cain earlier this month.

Parliament Government London © anshar Shutterstock 2012

‘New phase’

She said in a blog post that Jess McEvoy, currently head of policy and engagement, would take over from her as acting programme director.

Hughes said that GOV.UK Verify had entered “a new phase” following its designation as a live service earlier this year and that the time was right for her to “move on to new challenges”. She said she is to depart on Friday, 19 August.

“We’re now working harder than ever to continue to improve and expand the service and roll it out across central government services,” she wrote.

GOV.UK Verify is currently focusing working with local authorities to see how they can use the platform and with users to improve the way the system works, Hughes said.

Questions over future direction

The platform’s future direction is likely to face questions following Hughes’ departure, which follows the replacement of Foreshew-Cain earlier this month.

Kevin Cunnington, former Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) director general of business transformation, was announced as the new GDS director general, taking over from Foreshew-Cain, and Cunnington rejected suggestions he might break up the GDS, saying he wanted to “strengthen and accelerate the pace of change” at the service.

That move and Hughes’ departure are part of a wider shift that recently saw HMRC chief digital and information officer Mark Dearnley leave his post and the Home Office scrap its chief digital officer role.

GOV.UK Verify, for its part, has faced delays due to its complexity, with early testers saying the enrollment process was overly slow or in some cases impossible to complete.

Delays

Hughes previously said the progarmme had a hypothetical target of a 90 percent rate of successful enrollments, having reached 77 percent during testing in January, but for the past three months the rate has remained between 30 percent to 43 percent.

GDS earlier said it expected 400,000 users by March of last year and 700,000 by November 2015, but the 500,000th user was enrolled only in April of this year.

Questions remain over how broadly the platform is intended to be deployed, with the government presenting it as a broad successor to the existing Government Gateway, while Hughes has said GOV.UK Verify is only intended for particular functions.

Hughes said in May that more than 50 government services are planning to adopt the scheme, with 20 of them set to join in the coming year. GOV.UK Verify was initially trialled with select users from Defra’s Rural Payments, HMRC’s Self-Assessment PAYE Change Company Car Details services, with more joining trials over the course of last year.

No timeline has yet been suggested for phasing out the older Government Gateway service and no other plans have been presented for replacing or updating it.

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