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Individual Electoral Registration - changing the way we register to vote

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Transformation
Going live with the Individual Electoral Register
Image by James Arthur Cattell under a Creative Commons licence.

Today we launch the digital service for Individual Electoral Registration (IER). This is our first major transactional service delivered all the way to live as an agile project.

There are lots of other firsts as well.

For the first time we have:

  • linked all local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland with a central national service across the PSN (Public Services Network)
  • built a way to verify people against the DWP system to allow online registration, authenticated through National Insurance number
  • built a system which works across multiple security levels on a national scale in a way that is safe, secure and transparent to users
  • developed an open RESTful API which underpins a national service
  • had Ministerial approval at the start of a project, not through a paper submission or governance board, but by having the Minister use the service

I have been asked if agile can deliver at scale. IER supports 46 million voters across 400 local authorities.

I have been asked if agile can deliver robust services. IER underpins the democratic process in this country and is secure and robust.

I have been asked if agile can deliver against tight timescales. The only way we could have successfully delivered the digital service with a small team against a deadline set in legislation is by being agile.

Agile is not a thing you buy, agile is a thing you are. This is reflected in how we have worked and what we have learned.

Over the next few days some of the team will talk about what they learnt in delivering IER as a Product Manager, a Delivery Manager, a Service Manager or a Technical Architect.

There is a great deal to learn from our experiences in delivering IER. This was my first agile delivery project on this scale and I have learnt a lot. We are very happy to share that learning.

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  1. Comment by Nick Lane posted on

    We're so keen on this IER module that we've put a link to it on our MyAccount on our website. We'd also like to promote it as widely as possible.

    We're hopeful that we can use it to drive up sign ups for our MyAccount while delivering a greater number of electoral registrations = a win for us, for our residents, for Gov.Uk and the Electoral Commission.

    Currently the "only" fly in the ointment seems to be the guidance from the Electoral Commission who want to promote the Gov.Uk site, but don't seem to have considered how this can be linked to a local authority offer. Has anyone else thought about this?

  2. Comment by simonfj posted on

    Phew! JA,

    Easy. Paradigm shifts don't come easy. You know, when a very civil servant fights an out of date law and the behaviour it reinforces, and wins, that it won't take much longer the the penny to drop.

    Let's just try and keep the focus on examining " the implications (and user experience) of having multiple identities for multiple systems, vs. a single identity across multiple systems". It's just a (network) design challenge.

    • Replies to simonfj>

      Comment by JA posted on

      Thanks for your reply Simon.

      I accept that your question is a valid one but it is not the point of the paper I wrote.

      IT is about helping to manage processes, identity management, and data management for that matter, are biproducts of that.

      My point is that IT has, up to now, been a microeconomic tool geared to improving processes within an organisation. This is because the applications with most economic and societal benefit were designed before the Internet.

      The Internet enables end-to-end processes to be managed turning IT into a macroeconomic tool.

      This is a once-off discontinuity that needs to be bridged.

      i.e. today, in the UK, we have 28,000 GP systems, 25,000 pharmacy systems and 800 hospital systems, we can now design, build and operate a single healthcare application and discard all existing applications.

      I accept it is a paradigm shift, but are you saying it can't be done, or doesn't exist?

      The technical issue is that the only way that the production software can be delivered is through an engineering approach, i.e. logcal abstractions backed by mathematical proof in the design and engineering stages enabled automated software build.

      Again, thanks for your reponse. All I can ask you to do is step a bit further away from the technology, this is an opportunity to democratise public services by redesigning processes around the citizen, i.e. you and me.

  3. Comment by JA posted on


    The strapline at the top of this webpage states that

    The Government Digital Service (GDS) is leading the digital transformation of government.

    It rather looks at the minute as if it is all about adopting agile development techniques to create web front-ends for a few simple transactions still managed in legacy solutions.

    Suppose there was a much deeper, fundamental transformation available, such as overviewed at

    How would this be evaluated by GDS as a vehicle to deliver more fundamental change?

    I look forward to hearing from you in due course.


    • Replies to JA>

      Comment by Mark O'Neill posted on

      Like the other Exemplars, IER is more than a web front end. IER is a full end to end service which collects, verifies and sends information from people through to the relevant local authority system.

      • Replies to Mark O'Neill>

        Comment by JA posted on

        It is not end-to-end from the citizen's perspective. It is merely serving up data to an existing legacy application.

        I would have liked it to have told me that I was on the roll already, instead I have received two letters from my local authority (at what cost?) to confirm the same.

        I fail to see the business value in this, let alone any business transformation.

        I await a response to the question in my previous corrrespondence re more fundamental transformation.

  4. Comment by Catherine posted on

    If IER can deliver robustly and at scale, will this eventually be applied to voting online?

    • Replies to Catherine>

      Comment by lucywindmill posted on

      Hi Catherine - there are currently no plans to introduce online voting.

  5. Comment by Alfonso Ferrandez posted on

    This is fantastic news! If Agile has made it all the way into Government, the world (or at least the UK) is already a better place. Congrats to the team!

  6. Comment by Paul Shetler posted on

    fantastic job. i just registered to vote! and it took all of a couple minutes. really well done on a beautifully simple service.

  7. Comment by James posted on

    I'm sure it's a good service, if you're eligible to use it. Why wouldn't you say 'this is for people living in England and Wales only' in the intro - rather than below the call to action and crucially below the fold on most screens?

    • Replies to James>

      Comment by rebeccahales posted on

      Thanks for your comment, James.

      You're right - we should have stated prominently that the service is currently live for voters in England and Wales. The service will go live for users in Scotland in the autumn, depending on the outcome of the referendum.

  8. Comment by Lee posted on

    I'm usually interested in the new GDS web services, but for step-based processes that don't necessarily apply to me, I only ever see the initial page. (I don't want to put in junk data and look like I'm attempting voter fraud, or something.)

    Is there any way that they can support a demo mode of some kind? Or even a blog post with screen grabs or a video?