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Australia Gets on Board for PKI Governance

The Australian government has appointed 13 industry representatives to the board of the new peak body for public key infrastructure (PKI), one of the many steps in a long process that will see most Australian public sector services delivered electronically.

The chair of the National Electronic Authentication Council (NEAC) will be Fay Holthuyzen, deputy CEO of the National Office for the Information Economy -- which itself is an agency under the auspices of the Federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston.

Senator Alston said NEAC would provide "high level industry and community input", although no specific powers have been given beyond being a "focal point" to encourage interoperability between the PKIs built by different industries.

The membership reflected the various industries on behalf of which it was hoped NEAC would build a national PKI, including small business and retail sectors, banking and finance, professional services, academia, the legal sector and government agencies.

"Council members have been chosen for the communities they represent and for their experience and expertise," he said. "NEAC will be able to bring a balanced and intellectually rigorous perspective to the e-commerce issues under its consideration."

The most advanced sector in Australia is banking, where the Australian Payments Clearing Association has already chosen Baltimore Technologies as technology provider for a PKI project which is now in development.

Several public sector agencies have also announced relevant initiatives, notably the Australian Securities and Investment Commission which will give out a digital signature to go with every registered business name.

It is not clear whether the NEAC will contain a dissenting voice, like the public sector working group which formulated internal government policy for setting up a PKI, codenamed Project Gatekeeper.

University professor Graham Greenleaf was appointed as an independent member of the latter body several years ago, and was openly critical of the Government's policies on consumer privacy and the slowness of the process.

Another academic has been included as an "individual member" of NEAC: Jennifer Seberry, who is professor of computer science at the University of Wollongong. NEAC will hold its first meeting in Sydney in October.