The organisational model for UCD can be seen as an evolution of that developed for payment systems:

Click on areas of the graphic for more information about each organizational role (or just scroll down).


Service Provider Acquirer (SPA)

Service providers will not wish to have to enter into separate contracts with every PDS provider, nor would it be practical for them to do so. Thus an SPA is a single-point-of-contact for service providers to the infrastructure. It’s function is similar to the merchant acquirer role in payment systems Some sectors – such as education and health – may choose to build an ‘in-house’ SPA; in other sectors, a competitive market of SPAs will likely develop.

Characterizing Authorities (CA)

Personal data – such as a qualification – can be worthless unless the organization that issues it is entitled to do. Thus – to participate in UCD – each service provider will be required to obtain confirmation of its identity, and role with respect to the individual, from a CA. Typically CAs already exist in each sector, but are not yet online. For example, the UK Department of Education maintains a list of all organizations in England able to award university degrees.

Decision Support Services (DSS)

In many sectors, individuals need help in choosing between (or applying to) competing service providers. Examples include Uswitch for energy, and UCAS for higher education, each offering minor differences in functionality. We call these entities Decision Support Services (DSS) and envisage that – in time – they will be integrated within the UCD infrastructure.


The proposed governance body for a proposal to create UCD type infrastructure, in the UK, starting in education. UCDx can be compared to the role played by Visa (or Mastercard) in payment systems, save that

  • UCDx is a public interest entity, set up as community interest company, whereas both Visa is a fully commercial entity;
  • UCDx is a governance body only, and will contract with a special purpose implementation entity; whereas Visa acts as its on implementation entity


Software developers, who will compete to supply standard compliant code to participants in the infrastructure. Three such companies have already emerged: Evernnym; DataSwift; and Inrupt