ready to race ahead
Newswire / 25 May 1999 / Joanne Wallen, Computing
Ireland is forging ahead in its bid to
be a world leading ecommerce hub, and will not wait for the
forthcoming EU directive on digital signatures. "Ireland
plans to be the first mover," said deputy Irish prime
minister Mary Harney, speaking at the third annual conference
of the International Commerce Exchange (ICX) in Dublin this
"We don't want to wait. Time and time
again Europe has developed technologies it didn't exploit.
We must make sure this doesn't happen in ecommerce,"
said Harney. She said she was concerned that 80 per cent of
electronic business is currently done in the US. Harney said
the Irish government was acting on two fronts. Firstly, it
has created a
public/private partnership for infrastructure, and secondly,
it is creating the right legal and administrative regime for
electronic business to thrive.
"The Irish government is very, very
advanced, in implementing a
public/private partnership for infrastructure, and is currently
in detailed negotiations with a number of private international
organisations," said Niall O'Donnchu, principal officer
of the communications development division of the Department
of Public Enterprise. O'Donnchu said a bill on the formation
of a digital terrestrial television infrastructure would be
published in the next couple of weeks to complement the existing
infrastructure. The sale of CableLink (owned by two state
companies), which will provide ,Ireland with another competitive
access mechanism via an enhanced cable network, is also virtually
completed. "We recognise there's a major prize here and
we need to move quickly to catch up with the US," O'Donnchu
said. He said a "supple, flexible, light regulatory touch"
was called for. An Irish government directive published last
November, which is currently being read by an internal market
working group, will allow companies to chose any strong cryptography
,method, which would not be subject to any regulatory ,controls,
provided its use is lawful. "There are three ,words that
sum up our position in Ireland. No key escrow," said
The directive also covers parity of ,electronic
signatures, electronic writing and electronic contracts with
their handwritten equivalents, and their admissability in
legal proceedings. The government said however, that it will
look to industry to provide a regulatory code of practice.
"We don't want to produce a bureaucratic nightmare,"
O'Donnchu said. The government hopes to have a bill drafted
by September and published in October. "If it's not on
the statute books by the end of this year, it certainly will
be by the beginning of next ,year," O'Donnchu said.