e-security specialist Baltimore Technologies has secured a contract with Telstra to roll out Australia's first government-to-government (G2G) and business-to-government (B2G) e-commerce system.
The agreement signals Telstra's entry into the commercial Certificate Authority market, a strategic move that will secure it a somewhat pivotal position in the lucrative hierarchy of digital trust.
"In the paper-based world there are four corner stones to business transactions - integrity of data, non repudiation, authentication and confidentiality," said John Palfreyman, managing director of Baltimore Asia-Pacific. "The Certificate Authority is about transferring these key elements across to the digital world.
"In e-commerce, most people tend to think that confidentiality is the big clincher but really it is the first three that are more important. If I order 1000 t-shirts off you online, you need to know that it's really me that's ordering them, and that you can take me to court if I renege on the order. So, businesses register for digital passports from a trusted third party, much the same as a person would register for a travel passport. In this case, that third party is Telstra."
Palfreyman said the deal stems from John Howard's assertion, labelled "Project Gatekeeper", that the majority of Government services will be offered online by 2003.
Via Baltimore Certificates Australia, Telstra plans to establish an advanced public key infrastructure (PKI) environment for Government agencies and businesses requiring the use of Government services across the Internet. "Anyone who wants to do business with the government is going to need a public key that is Gatekeeper-compliant," said Palfreyman.
Baltimore has bypassed its traditional method of engaging its channel partners on the Telstra deal, however Palfreyman says that in reality Telstra is more of a partner than a customer.
"This is a lot more than a software transaction for us," he said. "There are services and integration - we are basically offering an end-to-end solution. It's very rare for Baltimore to throw a CD over the fence and say give us a call if you need anything."
The Telstra infrastructure is the first private certificate authority service in Australia to be awarded national accreditation under the Gatekeeper system, making it a highly strategic position for the telco turned service provider. While the financials of the agreement were undisclosed, Palfreyman says similar deals in world markets are big business, not just in terms of certification but through opportunities for bundling and access.