Government smart card decision frustrates industry

The smart card industry has joined the serried ranks of those frustrated with the high cost of doing business with federal government.

Asia Pacific Smart Card Forum executive director Alex Gosman said Centrelink's decision to freeze a project exploring use of smart cards for government payments was a blow to the industry, which had spent millions of dollars responding to the Centrelink RFI. Centrelink received 48 submissions in response to the RFI.

"This is an issue for anyone who deals with this government, whether it is to do with smart cards or defence or outsourcing. This government never appreciates the cost of putting a team together and holding that team when a project starts blowing out," Gosman said.

"This RFI was a huge cost to our members. I know some companies bought out people from overseas to make presentations, and others some very substantial submissions and some of our members had a team of three or four working on it for two or three weeks."

Centrelink Gateway general manager John Wadeson recently told the House of Representatives Financial Institutions and Public Administration Committee the banking industry's failure to move on smart card technology had prevented Centrelink further developing the use of the technology.

"We, like everyone else, thought the banks would push this infrastructure [to support smart cards] out and we could come in on their back", he said.

However Gosman said the claim left him somewhat bemused.

"I suppose you can make a presumption that if the government was been going to hire somebody else's application space, make use of somebody else's smart card, it would look towards the banking industry. But the beauty of smart cards is that they actually open the game up to new players.

"Telstra has got the most smart cards out there now, with its multi-application card for NSW TAFE, and QuickLink has got a smart card going with HBC health insurers in Perth. There was no guarantee the banks would have to be the only delivery agency."

The inter-governmental On-Line Council has described the banking industry's refusal to endorse the smart card industry's Code of Conduct as an obstacle to wider adoption of the technology.

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