E-commerce strategy sets cracking pace

The next eight months will see a swathe of government initiatives - including the development of a public key infrastructure that will be available to the private sector - according to the e-commerce strategy unveiled today.

The government has committed itself to a swathe of practical initiatives, including the development of a public key infrastructure that will be available to the private sector, in its new e-commerce strategy.

June 30 next year is the key date for many initiatives. By that time it aims to:

• Have a public key infrastructure (PKI) encryption policy published.

• Have 40% of all public services forms available online via its primary Internet portal New Zealand Government Online.

• Have information and online payments systems established on NZGO.

• Have passed the Electronic Transactions Bill, which provides an equal environment for paper and electronic transactions.

• Have passed the Crimes Amendment Bill, which addresses computer crime.

• Have the Ministry of Economic Development report to ministers on the implications for New Zealand of acceding to WIPO treaties on Internet copyright.

The PKI initiative will be hatched within a secure inter-agency e-mail pilot involving Treasury, the State Services Commission and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which is due to launch by the end of this month.

Where IT minister Paul Swain's Labour Online draft policy last year positioned the government as "leader and key enabler" of e-business and e-commerce, the new strategy emphasises that "leadership is a shared responsibility between government, business, and the broader community."

The "vision" section of the paper declares that "choices about new technology and the exploitation of opportunities must be led by the private sector," while government ensures an appropriate regulatory environment, promotes New Zealand's interests overseas, uses existing agencies such as TradeNZ and Technology New Zealand to support business and takes its own process and service delivery online.

In keeping with this emphasis, an E-Commerce Action Team will be established to support the implementation of the strategy. The team will be drawn from central and local government, business, the education sector and Maori and community organizations. It will have a private sector chair and a secretariat based in the Ministry of Economic Development.

The team will be responsible for shepherding the broad range of initiatives outlined in the strategy, including co-ordinating the public and private sector drive to facilitate the uptake of e-commerce, setting up a research programme and advising government.

The action team will operate from March next year, subsequent to a report to government from an establishment group due by December.

One government commitment that does not, however, have a date or any detail attached is that to "ensure an appropriate tax environment that takes into account the growth of e-commerce."

The strategy also highlights human capital as the key and commits government to "work with the telecommunications industry to ensure that every school has sufficient internet access to enable its use as an everyday learning tool."

Jobs and skills in information and communications technology will be the emphasis of a number of programmes, including some targeted at "those disadvantaged in the labour market". Distance and workplace learning will also be promoted and tertiary institutions will be encouraged to "meet the technology and managerial needs of New Zealanders in a rapidly changing environment".

The strategy is available online at:

http://www.med.govt.nz/consumer/elcom/strategy/index.html

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