ANZ Bank has struck a deal with the federal government which will see its business customers issued smartcards for making secure transactions with government departments.
Under an arrangement struck between ANZ and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (DITR), a "handful" of select ANZ business customers will be piloting the use of chip cards containing an IdenTrust digital certificate to authorise such government transactions as applying for grants, licences and permits; for signing and submitting government tenders and contracts; for meeting reporting requirements for importers/exporters; or even a transaction as simple as registering a business or company name or applying for an ABN.
The smartcard pilot is a part of a wider federal government initiative called the VANguard program, aimed at providing validation and authentication solutions between government and industry in an attempt to streamline communications and cut red-tape.
The program was announced with AU$29.6 million of funding in the 2006/07 budget and is expected to be complete within the next two years.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Small Business, Fran Bailey, said that at present, organisations can lodge documents online with government departments, but complications arise whenever they need to authenticate the document.
"You can lodge them online, but often you need to physically sign the document and mail or fax it in," the spokesperson said. "A lot of online stuff has fallen down because you still need physical signatures [to verify identity]."
The VANguard program allows electronic signatures to be verified, with the lodging of the documents recorded.
"If you needed a tender document in by midnight, you will be able to lodge it electronically and have it time-stamped, as record and verification that you lodged it on-time," he said.
The technology behind the transactions isn't complicated, the spokesperson said, but the development of VANguard is being held at a slow pace to "make sure we get the verification absolutely right. There are millions of dollars of contracts at stake."
ANZ is the first commercial entity piloting the program -- with the other partner organisation being the South Australian State Government.
A spokesperson for the bank refused to reveal how many companies will be involved in the pilot, except to say that it will be a "small number" that "depends on how many government agencies become involved".
The bank's spokesperson said ANZ has been progressively issuing smartcards to its customer base since 2003.
Several thousand ANZ institutional and corporate customers already use these cards to for a range of Internet services including the bank's Web-based payables, receivables and electronic file transfer solution "WebLink", for access to trust accounts and for other Internet enquiries.