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New operator for e-Cert services

    A local information technology company, E-Mice Solutions (HK) Limited, will take up the operation of e-Cert services from Hongkong Post Certification Authority (HKPCA) from April 1 for four years until March 31, 2011.

     The company will be responsible for the full operating cost in providing the e-Cert services and is entitled to receive subscription and renewal fees from e-Cert subscribers. The fee levels will remain unchanged.

     The Government announced in November, 2006, that a contract was awarded to E-Mice following an open tendering exercise to outsource the e-Cert operation. The objective of outsourcing the  service is to generate a self-financing public certification authority (CA) operation and to further drive the utilisation of e-Cert.

     At present, the HKPCA has issued about 1.55 million personal and organisational e-Certs, including 1.26 million free personal e-Certs embedded in smart ID cards.
     A spokesman of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) said, "The free use period for personal e-Certs embedded in smart ID card issued by Hongkong Post before April 1, 2007, will remain unchanged, i.e. three years after issue and no fee will be charged until the end of validity period of the e-Cert.

     "The level of e-Cert services provided to the public, including service outlets and service hours, will also remain unchanged."

     The spokesman stressed that there would be no change to HKPCA's status as a Recognised Certification Authority granted under the Electronic Transactions Ordinance.

     Notwithstanding the contracting out of the service, the Government will remain the owner of the e-Cert scheme and data, and is responsible for monitoring the contractor's performance during the contract period.

     "It is clearly stated in the contract that all e-Cert data is owned by the Government and the contractor will only be allowed to use the personal data of e-Cert holders in performing its obligations under the contract for the provision of e-Cert service," the spokesman stressed.

     The Government has conducted a third-party assessment to ensure that the handover is properly done. After a smooth take-over of HKPCA's e-Cert operation, E-Mice plans to offer value-added services at a later stage to promote the portability and user-friendliness of e-Certs so as to enable businesses and individuals to conduct e-government and e-commerce transactions in a simple, secure and reliable manner.

     E-Mice will conduct e-Cert operations and operate any new value-added services it plans to introduce in full compliance with requirements of the Electronic Transactions Ordinance, the Code of Practice for Recognised Certification Authorities, Government security rules and regulations, and the privacy requirements under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, in addition to the terms and conditions of the contract.  

     "Any process change will be implemented only after the completion of a thorough assessment by an approved third party, and upon the consent of the HKP as the Recognised Certification Authority and OGCIO as the regulator of Recognised Certification Authorities," the spokesman added.

     After conducting a review on the e-Cert scheme in mid-2005, the Government has come to the view that the current mode of operation of the public CA, which required substantial funding support from the Government and Hongkong Post's cross-subsidisation from its postal services, was not sustainable in the long term.

     To explore possible synergy with the private sector, an open tender was issued in June, 2006, to invite proposals from the private sector to run the e-Cert services and come up with new value-added services/businesses to generate a self-financing public CA operation, and to further drive the utilisation of e-Cert. The result of the tendering exercise was announced in November, 2006.


Ends/Friday, March 30, 2007
Issued at HKT 12:01


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