The Singapore government's drive to spur the use of electronic commerce is going global, with the intent of partnering with like-minded organisations in Taiwan, Germany, Australia, Canada, and the US, a leading e-commerce executive said this week.
One of the key elements will be to set up cross-border procedures for identifying the parties involved in any electronic transaction occurring over the Internet, according to Ben Yeo, general manager of Netrust, which acts as a Certification Authority (CA) in Singapore.
"For e-commerce to work, you must have the network, the security and identification procedures, and the payment methods," he said. "Those elements are in place now in Singapore, but we think the market will really take off when other countries get online."
CAs issue smartcard-based digital certificates to consumers and merchants, which identify each party in an online transaction, providing sender and receiver authentication, data privacy, data integrity, and non-repudiation of the transaction.
Singapore has already signed a cross-certification deal with a CA belonging to the Canadian government, whereby each CA agrees to trust the legal identity of parties registered by the other CA.
Singapore hopes to expand this community soon, either by cross-certification deals with CAs in other countries, or by inviting non-Singaporean banks to register for Singapore's CA scheme, Yeo said.
"Taiwan is very advanced in this regard, and Germany also has a very well thought out infrastructure," said Yeo. "We have also had discussions with parties in Australia and the US."
Singapore's local banks and government bodies have been actively trialling secure Internet-based e-commerce applications over the past year. Netrust, owned by the government's National Computer Board and a consortium of local banks, estimates that it will have issued 300,000 digital certificates to consumers by the end of this year.
This figure will rise to 800,000 by the end of 1999, and grow to over one million certificates - equivalent to 30 per cent of Singapore's population - by the end of 2000, according to Yeo.
Enabling trusted international Internet transactions is the goal once the concept has been put through its paces in Singapore, according to Yeo, and Singapore's e-commerce companies will be exhibiting their products at November's Comdex/Fall show in the U.S.