Auth0 says governments struggle to provide online citizen services

Dean Scontras, Vice President of State and Local Government and Education at Okta

Auth0, a product unit within Okta released the findings of its first Public Sector Identity Index, a global research report that provides government technology leaders with insight into the identity maturity of public sector organizations around the world.

The report highlights the importance of a centralized identity strategy in putting safe and accessible services into the hands of citizens faster.

Over the past two years, many public sector organizations were prompted by the immediate need to deploy digital infrastructure to maintain continuity of their services amid the pandemic — such as offering citizens license renewals online and virtual education — and are now grappling with the impacts on cybersecurity and user experience.

From the Executive Order on ‘Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity’ in the U.S., to digital identity and Single Sign-On (SSO) initiatives in the UK and Australia, enabling employees, citizens, and other entities to access all of these applications securely has become a demand.

The 2022 Public Sector Identity Index, conducted by Auth0 and Market Connections, captures the perceptions of 850 IT and line of business decision-makers within national and state/local government organizations across the U.S., UK, and ANZ (Australia and New Zealand) with regard to their Identity and Access Management (IAM) strategy.

Key insights from Auth0’s Public Sector Identity Index

Some of the Public Sector Identity Index report’s noteworthy findings include:

  • Only one in five are extremely confident in either the security (17%) or ease of use (19%) of their current authentication solution.
  • Username and password is the most frequently used authentication method by citizens (86%), compared to very little usage of biometric or passwordless authentication (16%).
  • Four in ten are currently building their own Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution in-house (41%), and cite speed to implementation (83%) and using internal staff to manage IAM internally (82%) as two of the biggest pain points in doing so.
  • Most governments are looking to expand their digital services in the next two years (75%) and rank protecting citizen’s privacy as most important citizen services (73%).

Regional analysis shows U.S. rank ensuring citizens’ trust in digital services as an area of high importance (71%), but have less confidence in the organization’s ability to deliver this (56%).

Similar discrepancies in importance versus confidence were reported

Such as delivery include speed in adding new services in the UK (66% importance vs. 48% confidence), and improving the user experience in ANZ (72% importance vs. 60% confidence).

Dean Scontras, VP of State and Local Government and Education at Okta said, “Digitization is likely to continue in light of Zero Trust mandates and rising consumer expectations.”

“Public sector organizations greatly benefit from bringing their identity management strategy in line with their digital goals. While there is a strong focus on securing citizen data, majority of applications are protected by a username and password, despite their security risks.”

Zero Trust security increasingly adopted

According to Forrester Research, the public sector has a massive influence on the entire economy making up 30% of the global GDP and 33% of the global workforce, and the firm predicts that more governments will adopt Zero Trust to revive public trust in digital services.

An Identity-First approach puts identity at the center of government digital transformation, while also laying the foundation for a Zero Trust security model.

Key to this approach are modern login technologies that replace traditional passwords, and introduce friction only when suspicious behavior is detected.

By making the shift to Identity-First, firms like Larimer County provide easy and seamless access for legitimate users, while decreasing the risk of security and compliance breaches.

Jessica Figueras, a cybercrime and digital identity advisor and Okta consultant said, “In the face of increasing digitization, skills shortages, and online harms, governments are taking a hard look at the technologies they can bring onboard to help them reach their digital goals.”

“This shows that identity is a technology that can help the public sector do more with less.” 

Auth0 research methodology

Auth0 engaged Market Connections to design an online survey of 850 IT and line of business decision-makers within national and state/local governments in the U.S. (200 federal, 200 state & local), UK (100 federal, 100 state & local), and ANZ (Australia and New Zealand) (155 federal/national, 95 state & local), fielded in September-October 2021.