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JIS News

Systems Analyst at the Trade Board, Carl Morgan has said that the agency has been re-engineering some of its processes, training its staff and acquiring new computer hardware and software in preparation for a full implementation of the Trade Board Information System (TBIS).
The system, which will allow for the application of import and export licences or export certificates of origin online, is currently being introduced on a phased basis and, as such, persons may only apply for import licences, although they are still not able to make their payments over the Internet.
The TBIS is part of the government’s information and communication technology (ICT) project, which will link the computer systems of public agencies and ministries to make it easier for entities and persons to do business with government.
Mr. Morgan told JIS News that there was a lot of duplication of effort when an exporter or importer did business with government. “An exporter would have to interface with JAMPRO, Customs, the Trade Board (if they need an export licence or a certificate of origin) and possibly other government agencies or ministries, depending on the product being traded.
“Therefore, the aim of the ICT project is to make the system more efficient and to reduce the number of touch points that an exporter or importer would have with government,” he explained.
He noted that the TBIS would allow importers and exporters to go online and do business with the Trade Board. He added that the system would help businesses to be more efficient by reducing the time it took to get things done and by allowing persons to carry out their business at any time within a given day.
The Trade Board has also been mandated by the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology to establish a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to facilitate secure electronic transactions.
“The PKI is a system making use of hardware, software and cryptography (the science of making plain text unintelligible and vice versa) to securely send data over an open network, such as the Internet,” Mr. Morgan told JIS News.
“A key component of the PKI is the provision of a digital certificate or digital identification (digital ID), which, like a regular ID serves to identify an individual or a computer system or another network,” he added.
As such, the Systems Analyst explained that if someone was doing business on the Internet with a particular bank and wanted to be assured that they were indeed doing business with that bank and not with an unscrupulous entity, then the PKI would provide the facility for that identification.
Additionally, Mr. Morgan said that the PKI made it possible to transmit data in cyber space, in such a manner that even if intercepted, could not be read and, “if tampered with, the person receiving the communication will know that it has been tampered with and cannot be trusted. It is therefore possible to send credit card information and other sensitive data over the Internet securely”.
The PKI makes use of the Public Key Cryptology, which uses two keys. “There is a public key that is freely available to anyone and a private key that is held in secret,” Mr. Morgan said. “One key will encrypt or scramble data, while the other will unlock information that has been scrambled. So, the data that is sent is scrambled using the public key, and the person on the receiving end with the corresponding private key will unscramble the data,” he explained.
Explaining further, he said that a certification authority would issue a digital certificate or digital ID that contained the public key of an entity or individual that matched their corresponding private key. The digital certificate/ID and thus the public key would be accessible by all, through an online repository.
“Therefore, if someone wants to send a document to John Brown then he or she could access his public key at the repository to encrypt the document and only the recipient (John Brown) with the corresponding private key could unscramble the document to read it,” he said.
Another important component of e-business is the use of e-signatures. This, Mr. Morgan explained, was a digital code that was uniquely identified with an individual or entity or computer system. The private key, which is unique to the entity, is used to create a digital signature.
“A PKI based digital signature, not only identifies a document with the person signing it, but it guarantees that the document has not been tampered with. A paper-based signature could not do that,” he pointed out.
Explaining the role of the Trade Board in undertaking the responsibility of administering the PKI, Mr. Morgan said, “the Trade Board is in a unique situation as it interfaces with both importers and exporters, which puts it in a good position to register entities that would need digital IDs and will be doing business with the government, public bodies and agencies”.