director of Information Technology for Tucson and, as such, I am authorized to transact business and legally bind the city in a specific fashion." Third, certificates may be passed electronically between computers to confirm they are what they appear to be.

This electronic exchange and verification, known as server certification, is especially important as governments look toward accepting electronic payments. Before I send my credit-card number over the Internet to pay a fee or fine, I want to know that I am dealing with the appropriate government computer, and not one masquerading as such. These computer impostors are known as "spoofers."

Using digital signatures is not a complicated process and the technology is relatively easy to implement. The first thing is to establish a "closed PKI" limited to the government enterprise. A basic PKI framework has been defined and can be tailored to meet the needs of the enterprise . In states where digital signatures are not yet a legal alternative to pen-and-ink signatures, early implementation can focus on replacing signatures required as a matter of policy rather than law.

The use of server certification for our Internet sites is another reasonable step for local government to take now. The move toward electronic service delivery and our ability to accept electronic payment depends on our ability to establish trust with those who use our systems. Accepting electronic payment of fees, fines and even utility bills has the potential for greatly reducing processing costs for city government. More importantly, it has the potential to greatly improve the service received by our businesses and citizens. Server certification can be accomplished by individual jurisdictions installing the necessary software or, more efficiently, by the use of a cooperative effort such as that available to local and county government from Public Technology Inc. (PTI).

Government IT professionals have a responsibility to not only manage emerging technology but, more importantly, to explain what it means to our politicians, managers and even citizens. If we let ourselves become too intimidated by the can, we may never get to the soup.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This article was written by Todd Sander, CIO of Tucson, Ariz., for Public Technology Inc. and is reprinted with permission. PTI, the nonprofit technology R&D organization for local governments, is sponsored by the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and the International City/County Management Association. PTI's mission is to advance the development and use of technology in local governments. For more information, contact PTI at 800/PTI-8976.