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The e-envoy, Andrew Pinder, today announced plans to examine the use ...
The e-envoy, Andrew Pinder, today announced plans to examine the use

of digital signatures and the future of smart cards in the UK.

Joining up currently independent strands of work across the public

and private sectors, the office of the e-envoy will develop a

coherent framework enabling citizens, business and government alike,

to realise the full benefits of the digital economy. As well as

looking at how to drive usage and build trust, the wider social

issues surrounding such technologies will be rigorously addressed.

Digital signatures extend the concept of written signatures to the

electronic world. They can be used to provide authentication,

integrity, confidentiality and non-repudiation of electronic

transactions. They have an important role to play in facilitating the

development of electronic commerce.

The next generation of smart cards could allow access to your cash,

credit card, library ticket, bus pass and more, all securely

protected on a single piece of plastic. They could also allow use of

digital signatures simply and securely.

New policy working groups are to be established involving major

stakeholders to help government determine whether a more co-ordinated

and strategic approach is needed. Public consultation papers will be

produced in November and December. These consultations will cover:

* Digital signatures for citizens - including issues of privacy and

social inclusion

* Digital signatures for businesses - including issues of liability

and wider take-up

* The future of smart cards - how to gain maximum benefit from the

many schemes

Mr Pinder said:

'Digital signatures are fundamental to the development of trust in

e-commerce and e-government - but for a variety of reasons they are

not yet in widespread use. The policy working groups will address the

barriers to wider take-up, and consider how the technology should

best be used to enhance on-line privacy.

'Smart cards are one way of making the technology of digital

signatures easier to use and more secure, but they have many other

uses too. There are a number of different public and private sector

smart card schemes being developed for UK citizens. It is an open

question as to whether these schemes need to move forward in tandem

to ensure that maximum benefit is gained from them all. People will

expect to be able to use their cards with different systems and so

the government wants to consider its role as a potential catalyst in

helping schemes co-operate with each other.

'These new groups will help the government develop its policy towards

the future of these important technologies within the UK. In framing

strategies, we will be working with Actica Consulting, and Logica

plc, to help ensure industry, the wider public sector and others all

have a voice on how the government moves forward.'


1. A digital signature extends the concept of written signatures

into the electronic world. Using mathematical and cryptographic

techniques, software can use digital signatures to authenticate

users, provide confidentiality and integrity of messages, and

support non-repudiation. Electronic signatures generally became

legally admissible in the UK under the Electronic Communications

Act 2000.

2. Digital certificates can be combined with digital signatures to

establish a hierarchy of trust via third parties. This helps

parties to electronic transactions to trust each other, even though

they may never have met.

3. Smart cards (also known as smart tokens) can be standard credit

card sized plastic cards with an embedded computer chip, SIM cards

within mobile devices or designed to plug directly into universal

serial bus ports on personal computers. The chip on each allows a

single card to be programmed to do many things, such as be a credit

card, handle electronic cash, store medical data, access satellite

TV, pay for bus travel and telephone calls, and so on. Old

applications can be deleted, and new applications can be downloaded

onto a card at a later date. The chip itself is designed to be

tamper-proof, and information stored on the card can protect itself

from theft, forgery or duplication.

4. The membership of the policy working groups will be announced

shortly. The first meetings are scheduled for mid-September 2001.

5. Following discussions with the working group, the government

intends to publish consultation documents early in December 2001.

They will be available on

6. The government published a Security, Authentication and Smart

Card Frameworks in December 1999. They are available


7. Actica Consulting is an independent consultancy and is working

with the Office of the e-envoy on the digital signature policy


8. Logica is a global solutions company providing management and IT

consultancy, systems integration, products, services and support.

9. The office of the e-envoy is leading the drive to get the UK

online, to ensure that the country, its citizens and its businesses

derive maximum benefit from the knowledge economy. To support this

aim, the office has three core objectives:

* to make the UK the best environment in the world for e-commerce

by 2002

* to ensure that everyone who wants it has access to the Internet

by 2005

* to make all government services available electronically by 2005

- The government's programme of work to ensure the UK is a world

leader in the knowledge economy revolution is set out in the UK

Online Strategy.

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