Other governments have shown interest in the State Services Commission’s See (secure electronic environment) standards for secure email, but even if they adopt the standards the New Zealand government will not make any money out of it. The selected providers of email software to See may, however.
The part of the See effort attributable to the SSC’s e-government unit is the setting up of standards for secure email and the procedures for vetting those standards, the latter in collaboration with the software suppliers such as Marshall Software, with its own local products, and Scientific Software and Systems, with Content Technologies’ Mime-Sweeper suite.
The products and the knowledge to configure the products appropriately for secure email are the intellectual property of those local companies or the offshore manufacturers, says See project manager Mike Pearson. Such knowledge that belongs to the e-government unit “we’re making freely available”.
That knowledge is helping the evolution of internet standards (RFCs) in secure communication, Pearson says.
Meanwhile, the unit is completing the requirements for phase two of See, which will allow secure information exchange between government agencies and private partners. These requirements, due out around the middle of the month, will be put initially to existing See providers, but subsequently made available to any other suppliers who think they have a suitable system.
Phase two will still be a “gateway-to-gateway” exchange, secure only between the entry points to the two organisations. The mail will travel unencrypted between the individual sender or recipient and their respective gateways.
Significant snags remain with secure email between individuals. For example, confidential information may be encrypted at an office PC and forwarded unsecured to a staff member on holiday.