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Alpha.gov.uk preps for beta, prays for funding

'ID assurance' scheme could need primary legislation

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The single government domain prototype being developed by a small team of coders is yet to secure any further funding and the clock is ticking on the deadline for feedback from British citizens. Despite that, Alpha.gov.uk is preparing to morph into a beta.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office's plans to introduce a new "ID assurance" scheme – which may hook into a post-Directgov website as early as summer 2012 – could require a new Act to be passed in Parliament.

"We've moved on from developing the 'Alpha' (prototype), so we're no longer called @alphagov on Twitter. 'Beta' now in development," reads a tweet from the team this morning.

The central website plan is at a very early stage of development. So far the Cabinet Office has spent £261,000 on the prototype project and British taxpayers have until 11 July to comment on its current incarnation.

The Alpha.gov.uk name was only ever intended to be used for a short period of time, while the prototype remained active online.

"We'll acquire a new (but still obviously temporary) URL soon for the Beta to live at," said the team on Twitter this morning.

A proper name for the site, which is expected to eventually replace New Labour's Directgov, is yet to be decided.

Last week in Parliament, Labour MP Emma Reynolds asked Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude to comment on his department's plans for the project.

"It is yet to be decided what content and services will be included on the final release of this single government domain," he noted on 14 June.

"As yet, no funding has been allocated for any future development. This will be subject to the Cabinet Office approval process.

"The Cabinet Office will continue to support the Directgov website providing citizens with government information and services," said Maude.

More broadly, the Alpha.gov.uk project is part of the Cabinet Office's "digital-by-default" strategy. So presumably, Maude and co really want to see the site succeed.

As we exclusively reported earlier this month, the Cabinet Office is also in the process of speaking with what it described as "a range of industry" about its ID assurance scheme, a prototype for which is coming in October this year.

Facebook and other social networks as well as banks could be used by British citizens to sign into a range of public services online, the Cabinet Office confirmed to us.

However, it's unclear whether the identity plans – which critics have described as Maude's attempt to introduce the Coalition's own national ID card scheme, sans the card – will require a new Act to be passed in Parliament.

"A Written Statement introducing the ID Assurance programme of activity was laid in Parliament on the 18th of May by the Minister for the Cabinet Office," said Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who is a Tory whip.

"Details of the design are still in development, including whether the programme will require primary legislation. It is intended that we will publish details once the design has been agreed by the end of 2011." ®

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