Illinois small business group plans PKI use

In Illinois, which plans to be the first state to make its public-key infrastructure interoperable with the Federal Bridge Certification Authority, the Small Business Development Center is building an application that will use the state's PKI.

The center counsels would-be small businesses on topics such as starting up operations, applying for grants and managing finances. It's more than just general guidance; 'very personal information is exchanged,' said Georgia Marsh, associate director of the Illinois Department of Revenue and a member of the state's PKI Policy Authority.

To secure the information that it plans to exchange electronically, the center needs the strong protection that digital certificates and a PKI will afford, Marsh said.

Currently, businesses that seek counseling visit the center or one of its satellite offices. Everything is paper-based and manual, she said.

'This is sometimes very difficult for business people because it involves physically going to the center during specific hours, and there may not be a center nearby that offers the specific counseling needed,' Marsh said.

Making services available online will likely let more businesses participate, said Scott Kennedy, the state's technology officer.

Securing online help exchanges is one of many transactions the center could provide, he said. Eventually, it might let business file their tax forms automatically, too.

'We'd like to set it up so they could provide their payroll information and that would generate those forms,' Kennedy said. 'Ultimately, that would be a goal down the line. This PKI technology helps us to really start to achieve those goals.'

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