NASIRE Seeks Proposals for Creation of Digital Signature Standards

Three state information management and finance associations last Friday invited industry proposals to set common standards for accrediting organizations that would certify digital signatures, an important first step in creating a national, and even international, electronic commerce infrastructure.

The National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE) is spearheading the project, with backing from the National Association of State Purchasing Officials and the National Association of State Comptrollers.

"Industry and government need to agree on a basic set of standards for certification authorities before the potential benefits of electronic commerce can be realized," said Carolyn Purcell, executive director of the Texas Information Resources Department and president of NASIRE, in a statement.

"Today, we require some documents to be notarized; certification authorities serve a role similar to that of a notary for electronic transactions of the future. We must have a common set of standards for rating the trustworthiness of these certification authorities and the electronic verifications they issue. A common set of standards will save resources and promote secure and reliable electronic commerce."

The solicitation came out of a series of meetings among chief information officers from around the country during the past year. "Sometime ago a group of NASIRE members got together as a group of interested parties in San Francisco to explore the states' need for a public-key infrastructure and certification for digital signatures," said Clyde Poole, team manager at the Texas Information Resources Department's oversight and operations division. Poole worked closely with Purcell on the solicitation.

NASIRE involvement is designed to "explore how certification issuing organizations might group together to self-regulate standards for business practices," he added. "That way a state could rely on a certificate without building its own certification process, in which case there could end up being 50 different processes." Those likely to respond to the solicitation are "mostly neutral trade associations" active in the certification authority field, Poole said.

Interested parties will have 30 days to respond. Proposals will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of CIOs from California, Massachusetts, Georgia, Washington, Pennsylvania, Utah and Texas. Also participating in the evaluation will be Jane Smith Patterson, senior adviser to the North Carolina Governor for Science and Technology and chair of the Electronic Commerce Task Force of the U.S. Innovation Partnership.

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