The UK government is to launch a consultation programme aimed at accelerating the uptake of smart cards and digital signatures in consumer and business transactions.
The government is concerned at the low rate of commercial penetration of the technology and the implications for its own timetable for bringing the UK online. It has contracted with Logica and Actica Consulting to put together a series of Policy Working Groups which will aim to develop a coherent programme for linking independent public and private sector initiatives.
The government e-Envoy, Andrew Pinder says: "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."
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.
Depending on the outcome of the study, the government may take action to ensure that cards developed for one purpose - for example banking - could be used for others, including public sector programmes.
Says Pinder: "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.