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Illinois Leads Nation in Using "Digital Signatures"

According to IT research firm Gartner Group, Illinois has become the national leader in using technology to enable first responders and government agencies to encrypt, send and receive critical forms and public-safety data with legally binding "digital signatures" - helping to streamline processes, secure data, reduce paperwork and speed transactions.

More than 40 agencies, universities and public-safety forces in Illinois now use this technology - made possible via a contract with Entrust, Inc. negotiated by CMS.

Any governmental entity in Illinois now has a standardized and secure way to authenticate businesses and citizens, enable them to secure data through encryption, and use digital signatures to transmit that information, via the "Public Key Infrastructure" (PKI) environment run by the CMS Bureau of Communication and Computer Services (BCCS).

That environment has grown tremendously in Illinois over the past four years, as more and more agencies realize the importance of maintaining the integrity and security of their data, the opportunity to streamline online transactions and the ability to improve public access to their services.  Since the statewide contract means that agencies don't have to build this capability themselves, they save money and time.

By March 2003, the State had certified 5,600 citizens and entities to enable encrypted filing of pollution reports, criminal background checks and other critical data.  Today, Illinois issues more than 5,600 digital certificates every four months, and the total count has passed 107,000 - the most of any state in the country.

In the emergency preparedness arena, for example, the technology enables:

  • The Illinois State Police to provide local public-safety entities access to the State Terrorism Information Center,
  • The Chicago Department of Public Health to provide medical facilities with access to its Health Alert Network, and
  • The Illinois Terrorism Task Force to provide secure biometric credentials to first responders.

Also using digital signatures:

  • Future teachers apply for financial aid via the Illinois Student Assistance Commission,
  • Medicaid providers locate client benefit information online, and
  • Water-treatment facilities submit their wastewater discharge monitoring reports with the Illinois EPA.

Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott has noted:  "The Illinois EPA's eDMR system was the first in the state to accept digitally signed legal documents using the PKI Infrastructure, and the system has become a model for the U.S. EPA and other states.  The facilities we serve really appreciate being able to submit their Discharge Monitoring Reports electronically.  We're now working to expand this capability to other forms and Agency programs."

Last week, Gartner Group featured Illinois at a national conference to model its success for other governments.  So far, 15 other states have contacted CMS for advice about how they can use the technology to improve their own government operations.


August 06, 2007
Illinois crosses the bridge

Illinois was exploring new territory when it launched its public-key infrastructure program at the turn of the century.  But it took an economic recession - and a statewide, belt-tightening information technology consolidation - to finally push PKI into use.


PKI Welcome

May 7, 2001
Security Blanket

Public Key Infrastructure unlocks e-government potential.

Nearly everyone recognizes the Internet's vast potential to remake government.  Since the dawn of the Web, public officials have promoted the notion that online transactions between agencies and their constituents and business partners will spark huge gains in government efficiency and user-friendliness.

But moving face-to-face dealings into the virtual world comes with its share of challenges, not the least of which are verifying the identity of those involved in the transaction and shielding the entire matter from prying eyes.  A growing number of states are turning to digital signature technology to solve these challenges and equip themselves to conduct some of government's most sensitive transactions electronically.


April 30, 2001
State, feds forging a computer linkup

Illinois is first in line for new 'public-key infrastructure'

WASHINGTON — If all goes well, Illinois companies will soon be the first in the nation to do business, electronically and simultaneously, with both the federal and state governments.


January 24, 2001
Illinois Unifying PKI Program - CIVIC.COM

The states public-key infrastructure program, which uses digital certificates to authenticate users for electronic transactions, will be standardized on Entrust Technologies Inc.s system, said Brent Crossland, deputy technology officer for Illinois, speaking Monday at the Entrust SecureSummit 2001 conference in San Diego.