[Dave Birch] Pretty much every decision that the British government has made about ID cards has not only turned out to wrong, but almost optimally wrong. The collection of civil servants, management consultants, ministers and special advisors managed to leave us in as bad a situation as when they started — with no national identity management infrastructure — but hundreds of millions out of pocket. There is now a manifesto to get everyone online by 2012, but when they get there they won’t be able to do anything since there’s mechanism to identity or authenticate anyone other than usernames and password, which of course mean a massive increase in identity fraud.
The current coalition are just as bad: they have no strategic vision for identity, no tactics for getting us there and (crucially) no more understanding of the technology than their New Labour predecessors (who, to be fair, didn’t understand the problem either). As Ben Laurie of Google, someone whose opinion I always take seriously, puts it
The trouble with allowing policy makers, CEOs and journalists define technical solutions is that their ability to do so is constrained by their limited understanding of the available technologies.
Quite. And in the field of identity, where “common sense” is an appallingly bad basis for requirements capture, they have even less chance of randomly happening across a workable solution than they do in the fields (pun of intended) of rural payments, where a cool ONE BILLION POUNDS has been totally wasted. The coalition’s decision to simply scrap the ID card scheme was stupid.
Neither the existing scheme nor the Coalition scheme (ie, nothing) actually solve any of the problems that the lack of an identity infrastructure creates and I absolutely predict that the lack of such an infrastructure will in turn create a major barrier to improving efficiency in public services
One of my pre-election suggestions to a couple of relevant “think” tanks was that the ID card should be renamed the Passport Plus, and sold as a revenue-raising £50 optional extra to passport holders: this would be straightforward to implement, since the ID card has no function other than as a travel document in the EU anyway. The wisdom of this suggestion has just come back to bite me.
Suppose anyone with a new-style UK passport could, either when applying for such a passport or later once they have obtained one, pay £50 for the additional Passport Plus. I would unhesitatingly do this. I travel a lot, and I would love to have a spare credit-card sized passport to keep in my wallet, even if that is only valid for travel in the EU. For the once in every few years when I turn up for a flight to Paris without my passport and have to get a taxi home and back again, the money spent on the Passport Plus would deliver immediate return. Should my passport be lost or stolen, my Passport Plus would get me back into the country.
Right now, I’m furious that I don’t have one. I’m going to India later in the month to speak at the excellent Prepaid South Asia conference. To do this, I have to get a visa, but I’m leaving for the US in two days, so I haven’t got time. In fact, because I’m travelling a lot, I have no time to get the visa before I’m due to fly. As a result, and much to the annoyance of our commercial manager, I’ve had to cancel a trip to the Netherlands so that I can be in the country for five consecutive working days so that I can pfaff about in the truly old economy pursuit of a paper visa to stick in my paper passport, as homage to the days before the Raj, let alone the days before the interweb tubes that I understand you can now get on computers.
If I had a Passport Plus then I could leave my paper passport with the Indian embassy (well, the private company that handles their visa applications) and fly off to Amsterdam without a care. Come to that, why can’t I just have a spare passport anyway? I’ve e-mailed the Identity & Passport Service (IPS) and will let you know what they say.
These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]