GovWifi is a wifi authentication service. It allows civil servants and visitors to use one unique username and password to connect to wifi in thousands of public sector buildings.
It’s not a wifi network itself - public sector organisations configure their existing wifi infrastructure to access the GovWifi authentication service.
People can use the same username and password on all their devices.
How it works
GovWifi uses RADIUS server technology to authenticate users’ usernames and passwords.
For security, each user is protected with unique credentials and encryption keys when they sign in to the wifi and access the internet. These credentials are randomly generated so cannot be used to get into other systems if they’re stolen.
Users’ devices are isolated from each other to stop the horizontal spread of malware and protect secure devices from less secure ones. The network also identifies itself in a way that cannot be spoofed, protecting users from potential attackers.
Organisations do their own filtering and monitoring on the network.
Who it’s for
Anyone can create a GovWifi account.
GovWifi is particularly useful for:
- civil servants who work in multiple locations
- members of the public who regularly attend government buildings as guests
This is because it simplifies the admin they have to do whenever they go to a new building, letting them get on with their work quickly.
Public sector organisations
Any organisation funded or controlled by the UK government can offer GovWifi in its buildings. GovWifi is currently available in buildings run by central government departments, local authorities, police and fire stations, courts, NHS trusts, and UK embassies and consulates.
GovWifi is particularly useful for organisations because:
- it’s free - setting us apart from our main competitor GovRoam
- it runs on top of their existing guest network, so it’s relatively easy to install
- it minimises the time they spend helping people access the internet
GovWifi was originally created in 2016 by GDS.
It aimed to solve the issue of civil servants moving between buildings and not being able to get on the internet, as the Civil Service started to use laptops and mobile devices rather than desktops.
Funding and management
GovWifi was originally part of the ‘Common Technology Service (CTS)’ business case. This was a business case for creating shared technical solutions for government - including printing and building access methods.
When CTS wound down, the GovWifi team was managed by the Portfolio programme - although GovWifi was still funded under the original CTS business case.
Now, GovWifi has moved away from GDS. It’s part of the ‘Change and Deliver’ pillar within the Chief Digital and Information Office directorate of the Cabinet Office. It will be funded by the Government Property Agency’s business case.
Originally, GovWifi had a backend written in PHP and a page of information for users on GOV.UK. From March 2018 to June 2019, a team of contractors rebuilt the entire GovWifi service in Ruby - a programming language that GDS supported.
When organisations wanted to offer GovWifi, a developer would have to sign it up manually. The team of contractors also built the GovWifi admin site, which lets organisations sign up for and manage GovWifi themselves.
This work involved adding ‘Super admin’ functionality to the admin site. This is an organisation with enhanced permissions that lets the GovWifi team oversee all the other organisations.
The information for users was also moved to our own service domain, rather than pages on GOV.UK.
Since then, the team has become a larger, multi-disciplinary team. We’ve been gradually iterating GovWifi.
A live assessment is scheduled for 2021.
GovWifi is a key part of the Government Property Agency (GPA)’s ‘interoperability’ agenda - modernising public sector ways of working by helping people seamlessly roam between government buildings.
We’re working with the GPA to make GovWifi the official way of connecting to the internet across all government buildings. This will mean GovWifi is the corporate network for all of government, not just a way on to a separate guest network.
This work starts with the 27 planned GPA ‘hubs’ - buildings that multiple public sector organisations work in.
To make this happen, we need to:
- work with GPA to understand their user needs and organisational priorities
- meet the criteria for live assessment
- iterate the service so it’s as good as can be