Visa gets SET to go in Asia

Visa is eyeing New Zealand as a possible location of a pilot for commerce on the Internet.

Visa is aggressively pushing the Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) security protocol in the Asia-Pacific. The credit card giant already is poised to launch two SET-based electronic commerce trials in Asia -- one in Singapore, targeted for 1997, and one in Taiwan, scheduled to begin this September, Computerworld Singapore sources say.

The Singapore SET pilot, part of the National Computer Board's Electronic Commerce Hotbed programme, and the Taiwan trial will allow a select group of Internet users to shop and make secure credit card payments over the 'Net, through a mixture of data encryption, user authentication services and digital certificates.

Meanwhile, Visa officials have confirmed that they are investigating further pilots in the Asia-Pacific. Possible trial sites could include countries like New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Korea, which are more advanced in terms of infrastructure and Internet ability. "We can't talk about Vietnam yet, for example, where there aren't even enough computers to go around," says Danny Lo, project director, Secure Electronic Commerce, Asia-Pacific region, for Visa International.

The Asia SET pilots, part of a global push by Visa, will last for about a year. Most of the trials will take place next year, officials say.

The SET protocol is scheduled for general availability by October 1997, when the SET committee expects to release a final version of the standard based on trial results and participant feedback. Also ready should be SET-compliant third party products such as digital certificate, merchant server, browser and payment gateway software.

"Credit card holders then will be able to shop electronically, and merchants will be able to accept credit card payments through the Internet with peace of mind," Lo says. In the meantime, the SET committee, comprising Visa and Mastercard, with partipation from several technology vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, Netscape, Terisa Systems and Verisign, continues to work on the protocol.

A new SET specification was released in June this year, incorporating industry feedback on the original version published in February. Just a few weeks ago, the SET committee made refinements to the protocol to improve interoperability between independent software products based on the standard. SET will eventually become the de facto security protocol for credit card-based electronic-commerce transactions, Visa officials say.

"It's a matter of market share," Lo says. "If Visa, Mastercard and American Express, which comprise around 95% of the world's credit card market, are supporting SET, I don't see why any other organisation would try to come out with another credit card payment protocol on the Internet."

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