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Improving GOV.UK Verify’s demographic coverage - an update on Northern Ireland

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Delivery, How GOV.UK Verify works, Research
Google Maps view of Northern Ireland
Image source: Google. Map data: Google 2016

In August we blogged about how GOV.UK Verify’s demographic coverage has been improving, up 9% since the start of 2016. At the time, we were only able to use data from Great Britain in our reporting but we’ve now been able to use data collected by the Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

This post provides an update on our demographic work using this new data, which allows us to estimate and better understand GOV.UK Verify’s coverage in Northern Ireland.

What we did

We commissioned NISRA to add questions to their Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey on what identity evidence people in Northern Ireland had. Because of the time it takes to add new questions to the survey, this data only includes the questions we asked during our first survey, which we blogged about back in January.

We use these survey results to model our demographic coverage. Because the survey contained our first set of questions, it gives us data on 14 items of evidence or technology that our certified companies can use to verify someone’s identity.

We’ll need to ask more questions to get a really full picture of our demographic coverage in Northern Ireland, but we now have sufficient data to make some estimates. Although these are most likely underestimates - as we know our certified companies can use some forms of evidence for verification that we had not included in this survey - the data still helps us get a better idea of the strengths and gaps in our coverage.

What we’ve found

Based on the data, we estimate that 69% of people over the age of 16 in Northern Ireland have the evidence needed to be verified by our certified companies. By next June we forecast that this will increase to 87%. This is similar to what we’ve found for the rest of the UK.

Our research shows that, on average, people in Northern Ireland are slightly less likely to have the evidence needed to be verified by our certified companies. This is because people in Northern Ireland are less likely to own a range of items that can be used in the verification process. For example, fewer people in Northern Ireland own UK passports or driving licences issued by the DVLA which means that fewer people are able to pass elements A and B of identity verification. Similarly, fewer people own the kinds of financial products that our certified companies can use as evidence of activity history for element E.

We also found that the differences in the levels of coverage between people on higher and lower incomes, or between people who are employed and unemployed, is less than what we’ve seen in the rest of the UK.

So, who’s most likely to be able to be verified in Northern Ireland?

We don’t have data on as many demographic characteristics from people in Northern Ireland as we do from the rest of the UK. However, we’ve found similar patterns in what groups of people are more, or less, likely to be able to have their identities verified.

We found that people in the 25-74 age bracket are most likely to be able to be verified in Northern Ireland. We estimate that 78% of people in this age group have the evidence our certified companies need to verify their identities. People in this group are more likely to be able to be verified because they are more likely to own a UK passport and have the kinds of financial products (such as a mortgage) that our certified companies use as evidence of activity history.

What’s next?

Our research in this area continues to be fed into improvements to the GOV.UK Verify user journey. For example, we’ve recently changed the way we ask users about the evidence they have. You’ll now see on the ‘Select all the documents you have’ page (screenshot below) that we’ve included a question asking users to tell us whether or not they have a Northern Ireland (NI) photocard driving licence (full or provisional).

Page on 'Select all the documents you have' on GOV.UK Verify journey

Adding this document to the page means GOV.UK Verify is able to direct users to certified companies who can check whether their Northern Ireland photocard driving licence is genuine.

We’ve also started working with the Northern Ireland Driver & Vehicle Agency to add Northern Ireland photocard licences to the document checking service, meaning that certified companies will be able to validate details provided by users about their Northern Ireland driving licence against official government records.

We want to make GOV.UK work for as many people as possible, and we’re on track to meet our prediction that we’ll be able verify the identities of 90% of the adult population across the whole of the UK in the near future.

Subscribe to the blog to keep up to date with our continuous work on our demographic coverage for GOV.UK Verify.

If you've used GOV.UK Verify and would like to provide feedback or contact us for support, please submit a user support request.

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