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This page was published on 16/01/2008
Published: 16/01/2008

   Science in society

Published: 16 January 2008  
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EU and GUIDE paving the way for safe e-government identity services

When the opportunity arises, many people, both from Europe and abroad, are quick to pack their bags to live and work in different EU Member States. While their keenness and preparedness to explore a new culture is impressive, red-tape problems prove troublesome for many, including their governments, and concerns about crime related to identity theft are rising. Enter the GUIDE (Government User Identity for Europe) project, which targets supporting governments to apply common standards for the secure exchange of personal data.

GUIDE is making connections for secure data exchanges.
GUIDE is making connections for secure data exchanges.

The GUIDE is a key tool for governments, as it offers uniform systems of identity management to support European e-government services. The GUIDE effectively gives reliable information about who is who and what is what in Europe. Launched in December 2003, the project had an initial lifespan of only 18 months, but was later extended until July 2007. Current members of this project are EU-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), large companies and universities.

GUIDE coordinator Marc Greaves recently told ICT Results that despite the differences that exist for privacy and electronic record-keeping, it should not be difficult to stop this from being a major problem for the exchange of data. There are, according to him, two problems: 1) governments must be encouraged to trust one another with their citizens' data, as well as to guarantee that citizens have given the green light for their data to be used in other countries; and 2) the technology that is currently used, for example in Internet shopping, may not be applicative for the exchange of data as regards government databases.

It should be noted that GUIDE is independent and does not rely on any government, technology or vendor, Greaves remarked. 'That has helped us get things done,' he was quoted as saying. Greaves also explained that the GUIDE consortium has used or further enhanced existing security standards in order to meet the needs of e-government.

In the past, identity management was handled on an individual basis, system by system; this could potentially lead to duplication of information or play havoc with data integrity. The process developed into a federated model where various groups and systems used and depended on each other's respective identity data. GUIDE has succeeded in developing a pan-organisation.

The consortium already tested its new techniques in two field trials: the form E101 which is used to register social security data of people who are working temporarily in another country; and a cross-border e-procurement in Germany, Spain and Finland. Greaves told ICT Results that GUIDE 'is not an end in itself'. It really supports e-government applications 'that will deliver the real benefits'.

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