Published May 1, 2001 | May 2001 issue
North Dakota is playing host to a project with potential to impact how the Internet is used. The state is testing new technology with the ability to revolutionize how users access, for example, medical records, birth certificates and Social Security information via a secure electronic path. The technology provides a legally protected means for individuals, government agencies and businesses to conduct transactions online.
North Dakota was chosen for a test site because of a high percentage of senior citizens, Indian reservations and isolated rural residentsall target populations for this service. The project, which originated when the Social Security Administration was searching for a venue to demonstrate better service via the Internet, has three steps. The first, linking government Web sites through one main site, has begun at Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, where users can access tribal, state and federal services through a single online site.
The second phase tests the use of a smart card, a credit card-type device with a computer chip that provides electronic identification. The third step involves the Postal Service's electronic certified mail. This allows browsers to perform online transactions, which are encrypted twice, once at the point of origin and again at the Post Office.