citizens without bank accounts to electronically receive benefits or welfare payments, generally through magnetic-stripe cards. These will eventually be smart cards.
Dealing with Which Government?
There is a story about a man in Montana who, frustrated with his inability to get services from a local government organization, called his congressman in Washington. After hearing the man's tale of woe, the congressman suggested he contact his mayor. The man replied, "I didn't want to start that high."
Obviously, this fellow didn't attend Civics 101, but the story illustrates the point nicely. Residents often lump all government institutions into one category, whether they are state, local or federal, and they often do not differentiate between an agency that collects taxes and one that issues driver's licenses -- they are both "government." We all wish that it were so! Regrettably, today there are hundreds of governments at numerous levels that residents must deal with. Smart cards will give us the opportunity to create a virtual "Department of Government," where the locality, level and specific origination are completely transparent to the resident.
The federal government is riding the commercial wave in developing and implementing smart-card applications. One of the largest-ever U.S. tests for electronic purse (or e-purse) applications was undertaken at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. VISA International produced 1.5 million VISA Cash cards, which were sold by banks during the games. Card readers were deployed in merchant locations. Attendees were able to have money stored on these cards, without worrying about exchanging foreign currency. Cards were distributed in pre-established amounts and accepted by the Atlanta transit system and thousands of other Olympic venues. The Atlanta project demonstrated that the e-purse application could operate successfully and there was widespread acceptance of the cards by people from all over the world. The National Football League's two newest football teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Charlotte Panthers, use stored-value disposable smart cards in their ballparks.
The Department of Defense is experimenting with a similar application of e-purse, by issuing smart cards with cash, on military bases. The Department of the Navy is using e-purse cards at its Smart Base site in Mississippi. Cards are being successfully used in the closed environment of college campuses or schools, such as York and Exeter universities in the United Kingdom and the University of Michigan.
The United States is not as far along in the implementation of smart cards as some other countries, especially in Europe and Asia. In 1996, North America had about 3 percent of the smart card industry market, with Western Europe at 70 percent and Asia at 10 percent. By the year 2000, it is projected that Asia will grow to about 40 percent of the market, North America will move up to 12 percent and Western Europe will drop to about 12 percent.
Eleven countries have implemented a major national program using smart cards. There has been significant progress in smart health cards in a region of France. The Germans began rolling out a national health- care card in 1993, and to date, 83 million have been issued. Welfare cards are being pilot-tested in Spain, using fingerprints for identification. Mexico has also issued 2 million smart cards to poor families.
Within the United States, there is much movement in both the federal and state sectors as well as joint projects. The Department of Defense's Multi-Technology Application Reader Card (MARC) started in Hawaii. It included a magnetic stripe, a smart chip, a photo ID and a bar code. Today, there are 47,000 such cards active. It is used as proof of principal for aircraft manifest, accountability, food service and readiness processing. A coalition of eight states, the Southern Alliance of States, began issuing EBT cards that will provide access to state and federal benefits -- including welfare, food stamps and Social Security -- through a single card system.