Necessity is the best motivator: Challenges and benefits of modernizing digital citizen services

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a massive increase in the number of online citizen identities, credentials and access points. As the pandemic continues, the immense need for digital identity and secure citizens’ identities shows no signs of subsiding.

According to Gartner, more than 60% of governments will have tripled digital services by 2023, but fewer than 25% will be integrated across organizational silos. This separated approach to citizen identity will lead to major security gaps and a frustrating user experience. Additionally, considering the demand for workforce identity — identity for employees and contractors — the need for digital identity management increases exponentially. While workforce identity is owned by the company and the user is given a single identity to log into all services, citizen identity is far more complex. In most cases, citizens create multiple identities to access different government services like social security and benefits, and oftentimes want to use pre-existing login credentials.

Federal entities are only just scratching the surface when it comes to citizen identity management and security. Roadblocks to streamlined and secure citizen identity span a wide range of areas, including lack of awareness and political will, developer staffing shortages and funding, to name a few.

Federal governments are prioritizing identity management and shifting their attention to the major issue of providing fast and safe access for citizens to access their services. With almost all applications (83%) requiring some form of authentication to verify user credentials, resolving that issue begins with streamlined and strong authentication measures.

The benefits of establishing strong citizen identity authentication are multi-faceted — better user (citizen) experience, stronger citizen trust, more cost-effective and efficient authentication, and more easily obtained compliance. Below are four benefits of modernizing digital citizen identity now:

  1. Better Citizen Experience: Citizens expect the same modern digital experience and security as a user accessing government services that they receive as a consumer. The bar has been set and it’s now up to federal entities to modernize to meet it. By resolving a poor user experience, governments can provide all citizens the same level of security and access from any of their devices.
  2. Stronger Citizen Trust: With public attention around voter and unemployment fraud over the past year, increasing citizen trust within government services will be critically important in 2021 and beyond to avoid continued skepticism. A better citizen authentication experience that is easily managed and reinforces the citizen’s understanding that their data is secure will reinforce citizen trust — a key component to government services.
  3. More Cost-Effective: By eliminating multiple identities, the citizen authentication process becomes streamlined and consequently easier to manage. Cutting out unnecessary costs and turning to third-party vendors to build identity solutions lowers government time and resources spent on maintaining complex authentication security. For example, utilizing CIAM tools that offer a broad-based library of code allows developers to match their codes for specific applications and deployments. This level of customization is a key ability for developers. They no longer have to worry about authentication but can focus on creating scalable and secure digital platforms.
  4. Easier Compliance: Identity management has been established as a major attack vector, and as such is a critical point of compliance and consent. As the front door to digital services, organizations around the globe are turning to centralized identity management systems to simplify access and compliance. By breaking down silos, governments can more easily respond to audits and honor citizen privacy and data compliance.

For federal entities, the time to get citizen identity right is now as government security infrastructure is being reevaluated and rebuilt. Federal entities have an opportunity to think about identity management as a strategy, not just for one application, but across their entire network. Not only does this free up technical resources for innovation, it helps close security gaps created by multiple identity systems as well.

By utilizing identity access management tools that are easily integrated into new and existing applications, developers start one step ahead. As on the ground innovators, building the apps and working with the service platforms, government developers benefit the most from these tools. They no longer have to worry about authentication and can focus on modernizing government services and building stronger, more secure platforms.

Not only is modernizing identity a benefit for government entities to protect themselves against rampant cyber threats, it is beneficial to citizens by providing safe and secure access for all.

Dean Scontras is senior director of Public Sector Sales at Auth0

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