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New Digital Channels for a Channel Island - I'm in a Jersey State of Mind

28-11-2016

So, Brexit is a fact. We can say goodbye to Great Britain as a member of the European Union. Great Britain entirely? No, one little island has courageously been resisting the invaders from Brussels for years – to quote Asterix. That island is Jersey, a politically independent island in the English Channel. I recently flew to this special place to discuss a national digital ID system.

Jersey is like a miniature version of Great Britain. Take this Mini-Britain as you want: an island with its own administration, a Lieutenant Governor (who acts as representative of the Queen), its own elections, its own postage stamps and its own money – The Jersey Pound.

Jersey, along with the other Channel Islands and The Isle of Man, have a special status. They do not belong to the United Kingdom, and they were never a part of the EU. They fall under the British Crown, yet, they are not a crown colony.

Living Apart Together – LAT Relationship

An image of my college life. But this introduction is important in order to understand what I had to do in Jersey. As mentioned the island has a LAT relationship with the UK: they are together, and then again they aren't. This island, just like its big neighbour, wants to digitalise its services in order to make things better and more efficient for its citizens.

The British Government have had a good working system for a while: GOV.UK Verify. This online service includes a digital ID-system in order to authenticate each user. Digidentity is one of the builders of this system and a 'trusted network preferred supplier'.

Now the UK will not roll out a decentralised system. Jersey will also not be using this system. Therefore, would this island be better off to set up its own system? Or are there other cheaper solutions for this place, which doesn't even have 100,000 in its population.

With this question in mind I was invited to Jersey. Together with other service providers from GOV.UK Verify, under the flag of the Open Identity Exchange (OIX). OIX is a non-profit organisation where services for online identity management are developed and rolled out. The people in Jersey were curious about our experience with the British system.

Delayed

So, I stepped into the aeroplane on my way to possibly one of the most charming business destinations. On route to the island something unexpected happened: I delayed.

A direct flight from The Netherlands is not possible. You need to change at London City Airport. I had around 45 minutes to fetch my boarding pass and to get through boarder control. I was actually leaving the EU zone. It went immediately wrong. My first flight was delayed. To make matters worse the airport was overcrowded. My flight was circling endlessly in the air. I begin looking at my watch nervously.

Once I landed at London City Airport I sprinted through the terminal looking for the Blue Islands desk, the company who were arranging my travel. There I got the soothing news: due to the airport being so busy this flight was also delayed. With a more relaxed heart I checked in and eventually took my place in the propeller operated plane.

Postman Pat

Blue Islands: the name promises something exotic. On Jersey there is a pleasant climate. It's a small hilly paradise, where time stood still. It's like glimpsing into the world of Postman Pat. Cosy.

When we landed the image of peace on the island was broken. All of the passengers were busy seeking out taxis to bring them to the capital of Saint Helier.

The meeting with the management of the island went quite relaxed. Before me sat men in jumpers instead of suits and ties. But make no mistake. The employees involved in the discussions knew exactly what they were talking about.

GOV.UK Verify Duplication

Jersey has been charmed by GOV.UK Verify. With 1 online identity you can safely and easily access and use all available Government services. Could we duplicate the British ID-system was the question? We concluded that large proportions of the system could be. All of the ID-Providers have developed platforms for GOV.UK Verify which could also be used in Jersey.

We found out that the way in which the people of Jersey register themselves requires extra attention. The civil registration and administration system of Jersey is different to that of the United Kingdom. But similarly to the GOV.UK Verify system a hub will also be required, where the Government is connected on one side and the ID-providers on the other. Through our experience with GOV.UK Verify we can implement a live ID-system in Jersey in the foreseeable future. Everyone happy.

Such a good meeting must be celebrated with a good dinner. Fish was on the menu, a recommended dish on the island. We had all the time in the world, the flight was leaving the following day.

Relax

With pain in my heart I left Jersey the following morning. Another travel delay. Again! This time I missed my connecting flight to Amsterdam. But due to the previous day it didn't make me stressed. I shrugged my shoulders and tried to kill time in the small, boring London City Airport. In the middle of the hectic metropole I was in a Jersey state of mind: fully relaxed. I searched for my jumper and I put it on.

Read the white paper regarding the development of a digital ID-system for Jersey.