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During 2019 and 2020, the digital identity team at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is developing a set of options for government’s future role in digital identity in New Zealand. You can find more about what we’re doing in our previous blog posts — An introduction to digital identity and Trust frameworks and creating opportunities.

A lot of assumptions, ideas, questions and opportunities arise in our work, and we need to be able to test these. Sometimes there will be data and existing evidence available to help us, but other times we’ll be in new, uncharted territory.

Where there are gaps, we’ll be carrying out a series of experiments in collaboration with individuals and organisations across the public and private sectors.

Experiments in collaboration

The experiments will take many forms, depending on who we’re working with and what we’re trying to find out. We could be investigating a particular problem, testing whether a specific technology solution can help make things easier for citizens, a new capability that is a building block for trusted sharing, or new standards and processes.

How we’ll go about it

Here are the general steps we’ll be following when deciding what experiments to do, and how they will be shaped:

Engagement and discovery

We’re working with individuals and organisations across New Zealand to understand the challenges and opportunities they face when accessing or providing services based on digital identity. Once a problem or opportunity is identified, we research it thoroughly and develop a problem statement that everyone can agree on.

Hypothesis formation

Once we’ve agreed on the problem statement, we come up with one or more ideas we want to test. We want to focus on untested assumptions or questions related to the problem to help us understand what a good solution may look like.

We use the following format to express the ideas we are going to test:

‘We believe that [creating this experience] for [specific persona] will achieve [this outcome].’

These statements will form the basis for creating an experiment, allowing the team to prove or disprove it.

Experimentation

Each experiment needs to be designed specifically to prove or disprove the assumptions as efficiently as possible. We’ll work collaboratively with interested parties to run experiments, allowing all parties to participate through the process.

This helps ensure the problem is kept front of mind by all and the experiment delivers value for all. 

Guidelines

The following guidelines set the parameters we use when deciding which experiments to go ahead with:

  • Specific objective — experiments need to have a specific objective to ensure everyone involved is clear about what we hope to learn together and when we have done enough to stop.
  • Clear problem statement — to start an experiment, we need to have a clearly defined problem with a good idea of who it impacts and how.
  • Valuable to the wider work programme — the problems we explore through experiments need to help progress our work on developing options for government’s future role in digital identity or the trust framework.
  • Active involvement of participants — we want to work with actively engaged stakeholders who can collaborate, including through contributing people or funding to the team.
  • Clear scope, timeframe, and stakeholders — experiments will be designed to test the hypothesis, and no more. Our ideal timeframe is three months or less.
  • Publicly shared learnings — we’ll publicly share the learnings from all experiments to help others working on similar problems. Intellectual property created through the course of an experiment will be made publicly available under an open source arrangement.
  • Complex and broad relevance — we also want to include some of the more complex challenges that impact a wider group of organisations. We're working on the assumption that by exploring complex problems we'll likely find answers to simple problems too.
  • Affordable — all experiments need to be scoped to be affordable for all participants (for example, people costs and financial contribution). Experiments with significant cost implications may need to be reconsidered to see if there is a more effective way to gain the same insight.

While many of our experiments to date have come through planned engagement with individuals and organisations, we know we haven’t talked to everyone with a problem to solve or a good idea to test.

We’re interested in hearing from anyone who has a digital identity related problem within their organisation or sector that we could explore together. Contact us at digital.identity@dia.govt.nz.

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