'

Feds to harmonise smartcard rules

With a massive government services smartcard deployment now firmly on the coalition's agenda, the federal information management office is devising guidelines for agencies to cut risk and limit the financial outlay on what one minister conceded can be "extremely complex and costly" smartcard projects.

With a massive government services smartcard deployment now firmly on the coalition's agenda, the federal information management office is devising guidelines for agencies to cut risk and limit the financial outlay on what one minister conceded can be "extremely complex and costly" smartcard projects.

Special Minister of State, Senator Eric Abetz said today the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) was developing a framework to help agencies deliver smartcard projects efficiently and securely, including a set of standards to ensure interoperability between offerings.

A draft of the framework is expected to be completed and released for comment by the end of the year.

Senator Abetz said "international and domestic experience tells us that the implementation of smart cards to assist in the delivery of government services can be extremely complex and costly.

"We want to provide agencies with assistance to ensure that the risk involved in designing such complex IT service delivery systems is significantly reduced".

Senator Abetz also made it clear that federal agencies developing smartcard projects would have no choice but to comply with the standards. "The framework will serve as a reference document, providing government agencies with guidance for interoperable smartcard programs.

"All Australian government agencies will be expected to meet the requirements laid out in the framework".

Senator Abetz and the Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey, are -- concurrently with the AGIMO project -- undertaking preliminary work on plans that would see cards incorporating smart chip technology replace a raft of government services and concession cards, including Medicare cards. Hockey is presently preparing a business case for the project.

The government is also planning to roll out "a standard card of some type, perhaps using smart chip technology" across the federal public service to replace a "plethora" of identification tokens presently in use.

Senator Abetz also said AGIMO would consult with the states and territories in an effort to ensure smartcard projects undertaken by any level of government would be interoperable through compliance with an agreed set of standards.

The Victorian government in July awarded an AU$500 million contract for development by 2007 of a smartcard ticketing system for public transport to a consortium of transport and tech experts, while Queensland is also planning a wide deployment of a transport smartcard system.