industry news SME profile Wednesday 29 Jun 2022 @ 12:30 How technology can empower a public sector facing significant cuts

 

 

Latest Article By Barley Laing, the UK Managing Director at Melissa

There is huge pressure on the public purse due to Covid. It’s the main factor why the government has recently announced its plans to cut up to 91,000 civil service jobs - about a fifth of the workforce - over the next three years to save £3.5 billion.

Opportunity provided by technology

The proposed reduction in the workforce presents an opportunity for existing and evolving technology to empower civil servants, by making them more efficient and productive, with labour intensive back-office administrative tasks being more effectively handled by technology at lower cost. Not only does this provide a better service for citizens who have higher expectations in the digital age, but it frees up staff to focus more time on critical public facing services.

Evolving technology has been positively disrupting organisations for decades. Today, technology in the public sector has been proving its worth during the Covid pandemic and is now set to be even more important with the government’s planned cuts.

Technology can operate 24 / 7, doesn’t make mistakes, take time off or go on holiday and can streamline key administrative functions, from payroll to procurement, maintaining data quality to ID verification.

 

ID verification transformed by technology

ID verification is a good example of an area where technology is changing the way the public sector operates to become more efficient, while reducing cost. The digitalisation of public services, combined with growing online fraud, requires those in the public sector to know who they are engaging with, ideally in real-time. It’s confirmation of identity that will prevent valuable budgets from being disbursed incorrectly.

Today, physical ID checks don’t cut it. It’s difficult for staff to review ID documents for authenticity, manually, leading to mistakes. Also, with thousands of ID document types worldwide staff struggle to understandably recognise them all, causing review-related delays. Additionally, records of ID checks can often be held in hard copy at various locations, making quality control difficult. Finally, operating manually does not usually allow for a quick response to changes, whether legislative or regulatory.

ID verification technology, such as electronic identity verification (eIDV), is proving to be a game changer for the public sector. It supports cross-checks against an individual's contact data in real-time as they complete an online application process, while ensuring the user experience isn’t compromised. It does this by matching the name, address, date of birth, email, or phone number against reputable data streams such as government agency, credit agency and utility records, to effectively confirm the ID of an individual. Also, such technology should be able to highlight those who have been sanctioned, politically exposed persons (PEPs) and deliver adverse media checks, for a full ID verification service. Only then is it possible to determine an applicant’s ‘right’ to access a service or support, and protect tight budgets against scammers.

With eIDV it’s important to recognise that those in the public sector can strengthen their governance processes by aiding compliance with ‘know your customer’ (KYC) or citizen, and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.

 

Biometric technology and identity verification

In conjunction with eIDV, automated biometric technology utilising optical character recognition (OCR) plays an important role in verifying identity, without the need for time-consuming security questions and passwords. Such a tool can check the validity of ID documentation in real-time, along with successfully examining the image in the master ID documents – such as a passport or driver’s licence - with the selfie provided by the applicant or existing user to see if they match. The algorithm in the technology ensures the reliability of the process by instantly distinguishing differences between the selfie and the ID image, including head position, skin imperfections, makeup, hairstyle and facial hair.

It’s vital that the OCR technology used provides liveness checks, a ‘challenge response’, to ensure a scammer is not using a 2D image or video to trick the technology to ‘prove’ that they are the person they are impersonating. By asking the individual to blink, which confirms eye movement and proof of life, it’s possible to establish that the person is real and not a static image. It provides additional confidence that the person being onboarded online is very definitely who they say they are.

The accuracy, speed and cost benefits offered by the technology powering eIDV and biometrics are far superior to any manual approach, and also provides a fully auditable pathway should that be needed for reference.

With cuts to the public sector looming technology must take the strain with back-office administrative processes, where appropriate, such as with ID verification. This way civil servants are empowered to focus their attention on other critical areas, and valuable budgets are utilised appropriately.

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