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Lawrence Euteneier, Manager
Information Highway Applications Branch
Market Research indicates that the gap between, those who can and do access the interact in its present form and those who can and do not is growing. While this same research tells us that another large segment of the population will move on- line as the perceived need to access builds and. the cost of access goes down, them will still be a sizeable portion of the population who will continue to face technical barriers to accessing the internet, Additionally, as new non-PC technologies come to market, and. These technologies are more universally accessible and affordable, new challenges and opportunities will also continue to emerge. Web-4-All was conceived with them evolutionary trends in mind, and has both the foundation and concept to meet short, medium and long-term objectives.
Web-4-All is a system that provides interact access through a variety of alternative access PC applications for people with non-standard PC./internet access requirements. It was designed to be used on public internet access PC terminals. It allows users to select an interface application and configuration, store the setting to a smart card, restore the settings to the PC automatically at the beginning of each new session, and restore the default interface settings on the PC at the end. A smart card is used to store the individual's settings, allowing users to invoke their personally configured settings at any public PC/interact access terminal equipped with Web-4-All technology. This system allows one PC to meet everyone's needs as opposed to the present approach of having specific stations designated to meet the needs of people with similar requirements.
The alternate interact access applications stored, on PCs equipped with the Web-4-All technology address a variety of access requirements. The applications were selected from the market place for their reliability, flexibility and cost, They provide solutions to the blind, low vision, learning disabled, people with dexterity or motor impairments, people with low literacy rates, and people whose first language is other than English or French. The system addresses the needs of both French and English speaking Canadians.
When a user first sets there personal PC interface settings, a series of questions are presented that the user either answers independently or, if necessary, with the assistance of another. While the questions are designed to maintain the user's anonymity and dignity, there choices lead to Web-4-All selecting one of a number of pre-loaded access applications, and then further refines the settings on the application to provide the best fit with the user's requirements. Further refinements to the settings can be made by the user to reflect their requirements or skill level at any time. This profile generator is also expandable to capture additional fields of information for use in future internet applications such as auto-form completion.
Smart card technology is a plastic card with a microprocessor chip imbedded into the card. This allows the card to communicate simple commands to a PC by means of a card reader. It also allows the PC to communicate new information to the card for storage. The card reader and software will write to smart cards currently in use by financial institutions in Canada.
Smart cards offer an advantage over magnetic strip cards in that the data stored on the card can not be copied remotely. The data on a smart card can also be further secured through additional security programs if necessary. Smart cards can also store far more information than a magnetic strip card and can host multiple applications. Web-4-AII can read and write to VisaCash and Mondex cards presently in circulation, allowing for additional e-com services to be added down the road.
Two Web-4-All developmental systems were initially built in the spring of 2000. The cost of the standard PCs that these systems run on is $2,500 CDN each. The additional card reader, track ball and software licenses added another $250 to the cost of each system.
Four more systems have since been assembled and beta-tested in controlled environments at selected public interact access sites. These sites were selected for their proven track record of working effectively with citizens with special access requirements.
Following 90 days of beta testing, morn extensive pilots were undertaken in public access sites in three regions across Canada.
To test Web-4-All's effectiveness, the technology is being piloted in three regions of Canada: Sherbrooke (Quebec), Barry (Ontario), and Vancouver (British Columbia). These test regions were selected to pilot in collaboration with smart card pilots being undertaken by Canadian financial institutions.
Banks are currently testing smart card products that feature the ability to store cash. These cash cards allow the user to purchase goods or services independently without the need for verification of whether the purchaser has credit or direct-debit funds available. Each purchase deducts the cost from the card, and the card user simply loads additional funds on to the card as needed, Web-4-All was designed to work on the same smart cards to both capitalize on the over 100,000 smart cards presently in circulation, and to eliminate the need for Web-4-All users to carry yet another piece of plastic.
The banks and credit card companies presently piloting cash cards are excited over the opportunity to participate in piloting Web-4-All. For the users of cash cards, it means being able to store their personal internet-access profile on their cash card. For the banks it means providing their customers with access to their on-line electronic banking services -- customers who the banks consider some of their biggest users of traditional over-the-counter services. These pilots also represent the first joint smart card initiative between Canada's financial institutions and the Canadian Federal Government.
Following a successful piloting of Web-4-All, refinements to the product would be undertaken in preparation for a national rollout. National rollout of Web-4-All will involve setting up systems in each of the urban and rural Community Access Program sites throughout Canada. It is estimated that the cost of one Web-4-All system, which includes the card reader, assistive technologies and profile generator, will cost around $250 per unit. The estimated cost for placing systems in all 10,000 CAP sites is $2.5 M, Training materials, installation CD-ROMs, shipping, marketing, and technical support will add to this cost. However, since no central application is required to support Web-4-
All, on-going support should only involve the provision of telephone support services, and the release of periodic software upgrades that would be made available on a downloadable basis.
Timing the national roll-out with the introduction of smart cards by Canadian financial institutions is the goal as this would assist in both reducing the cost of marketing and providing Web-4-A11 users with actual cards.
Providing a low-cost assistive technology for use on public internet access PC-terminals to developing and developed countries would assist in addressing the global digital divide issue. To this end, the Government of Canada is working with the Organization for American States, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank to identify applications for Web-4-All technology in developing countries.
It is expected that by the time Web-4-AII has been established in CAP sites, schools and libraries across Canada, and Canadians have become familiar with the functionality of the smart card as a technology, governments will be ready to begin delivering services on line; expected date 2004. While the provision and access of the vast majority of content presently on the internet now does not require the identification of the user, this will change as people's comfort level with the net increases and services are moved on-line. Additionally, present users of the interact are concerned with the requirement that they provide on-line vendors with personal financial information when making on-line purchases, and desire a more anonymous protocol that would better safeguard their financial security and personal privacy.
Both the provision of on-line government services and the provision of an anonymous purchasing protocol require that the user be provided with a means of submitting an electronic signature in a secure fashion. This requires two basic technologies; establishment of a secure (encryption) means of sending information electronically, and the authentication that the user is the person they claim to be. The secure transmission of information is almost pointless without the recipient of the information being assured of the sources identity. Conversely, them is little point in providing a means of verifying users if there is no means of ensuring that they bare a secure channel to transmit personal information over. Establishing secure channels can be accomplished centrally and on PCs. User authentication can only reliably b accomplished by issuing users with personal certifications that serve as their actual signature; only it is electronic. Storing this electronic signature on a smart card, protecting it against remote access with encryption software, and providing the holder of the encrypted certificate with the key that only he or she knows, is another use for the smart card that builds on the concept of multiple application card platforms.
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