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Ventura leaves his mark on the digital world

October 21, 1999
Web posted at: 10:52 a.m. EDT (1452 GMT)

by Dan Caterinicchia


(IDG) -- Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura (I) last week became the first U.S. governor to put his digital signature on a document, when he and the secretary of state co-signed a proclamation announcing Digital Signature Day.

The state's new digital signature infrastructure enables secure Internet communication between government employees internally and with Minnesota citizens, said Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, whose office has been working on the development of digital signatures since legislation was passed in 1997.

Kiffmeyer, who lives in a rural community, said she was particularly pleased with the enhanced statewide connectivity that digital signatures offer. "Often, the rural component[s] are heavily outweighed by the metropolitan areas, but this makes everything level," she said. "Citizens anywhere in the state can all use it equally well and benefit from it equally well."

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Minnesota is using cryptographic smart cards designed by Burnsville, Minn.-based Datakey Inc. to store the digital signatures. The new tools enable users to digitally sign electronic forms and e-mail messages, and perform secure Internet or intranet transactions. "The smart cards are portable so they can be carried with you...and they are completely secure [with a password], so no one can steal your digital identity," said Tim Russell, vice president and general manager of the company's integrated systems solutions unit. Datakey teamed with Seattle-based ID Certify Inc., which will provide state users with digital signature certification and repository services.

Digital signatures are being used among the state's agencies but will be rolled out to the private sector in November, Kiffmeyer said. "It's harder to do it in government [with privacy standards and legislation] than in the private sector," she said. "So when you use it in government, especially at the highest [level], you can make it work in the private sector."

Many state agencies plan to use the new technology to streamline paper-based systems. For example, the Treasury Department will use digital signatures to transfer state funds securely; the state's judiciary branch will digitally sign court forms and documents; the Transportation Department plans to digitally sign its contracts with private vendors; and the Corrections Department will put in place a secure system for filling prescriptions in Minnesota's correctional facilities, Kiffmeyer said.

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