of digital signatures and the future of smart cards in the UK.
Joining up currently independent strands of work across the public
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
* Digital signatures for businesses - including issues of liability
and wider take-up
* The future of smart cards - how to gain maximum benefit from the
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
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 http://www.govtalk.gov.uk.
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
* to ensure that everyone who wants it has access to the Internet
* 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