Tony Blair and William Hague call for Digital ID system

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and previous Leader of the Opposition William Hague have outlined views for an innovative Britain in a new joint report that calls for a digital ID system. 

Titled ‘A New National Purpose: Innovation Can Power the Future of Britain’, the report was released by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and addresses a ‘technological revolution’ that calls for a ‘reorganisation of the centre of government.’

A summary of the report says: ‘With science and technology as our new national purpose, we can innovate rather than stagnate in the face of increasing technological change. 

‘This purpose must rise above political differences to achieve a new cross-party consensus that can survive any change of government.’ 

Amongst the many ideas included in the 64 page report, Blair and Hague call for digital IDs for UK residents which would allow for the sharing of a range of information including someone’s ‘right to live and work in the UK, their age and ownership of a driving licence.’ 

Controversy around the safety of the idea, which has been suggested many times and resembles Blair’s own rejected attempt at a national ID system whilst he served Prime Minister, is addressed in the report which states that advanced encryption techniques ‘using zero-knowledge proofs’ means that information can be shared securely and ‘without exposing the underlying data.’ 

Another focus of the report is the importance of AI driven public services through areas such as improving search tools on government websites, using machine learning to assess student progress in schools and enabling civil servants to ‘make more informed choices.’ 

Other reforms pushed by the report include increasing public research and development investment, investing in ‘new models of organising science and technology research’, building stronger relationships with global partners, and creating an Advanced Procurement Agency with a mandate to ‘procure promising solutions.’ 

Looking at current government policy, Blair and Hague praised the recent creation of a Department for Science, Innovation and Technology but said that a ‘central coordinating brain’ is needed through a science and technology Policy and Delivery Unit. 

The report said: ‘There needs to be an upskilling at the centre of power to drive this agenda as a top priority, with the full and active engagement of the prime minister.’ 

Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan recently outlined her goals for the new department during a visit to the Rosalind Franklin Institute. 

You can read the full report here.

Photo: (CC BY 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons


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