White House promotes smart card app creation

The Clinton administration plans to convene a group of agencies that regularly work closely with the public to develop smart card applications for delivering frequently demanded services."The problem is no one wants to go first " said Greg Woods deputy director of the National Performance Review in a speech delivered last week at the Card Tech/Secure Tech trade show in Arlington Va.

But agencies by working together could overcome the risks of deploying new technologies he said. "We can completely redefine the government's relationship with the people it serves " he said.

Various federal agencies led by the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget are attempting to define a framework through which the government would deploy smart cards - plastic cards embedded with computer chips - during the next few years. Woods did not specify which agencies would be involved in the upcoming alliance saying the details would be announced later this fall.

The effort would contribute to administration goals for delivering federal services electronically as outlined in the NPR's "Access America" report on information technology released in February.

During a panel discussion at the show Jack Radzikowski chief of financial systems with OMB said the government wants to adopt a "market-based solution" for its smart card applications but major service-delivery agencies need to agree on which private-sector standards to adopt. Among the agencies that could be involved in this debate he said are the Department of Veterans Affairs the Social Security Administration and the Education Department.

Smart cards are an appealing way to deliver government services because they could allow individuals to have access to multiple applications without having to duplicate information provided to different agencies.For example the card could store identification information needed for people to tap their own Social Security files or fill out student loan applications.

"The card could well be a bridge across these systems across that mouth of the stovepipe " Radzikowski said. Agencies most likely would move forward first with federal financial transactions he said because the financial industry has familiar rules for moving funds electronically on telecommunications networks.

Several recent developments in smart cards including emerging standards for operating systems and interfaces with desktop computers are making the technology more commercially viable vendors said. "It's getting more realistic than it's been in the past " said John Rego account manager for government applications with Schlumberger Electronic Transactions Moorestown N.J.

Marty Wagner associate administrator with GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy said the government wants to "ride commercial applications" rather than have the government issue cards.


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