Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

The dangers of a big bang approach

Issue date: 15 July 1999 Article source: Computer Weekly News The dangers of a big bang approach Alan Duncan MP, Conservative spokesman on IT issues, says the e-commerce Bill must be reframed

Last week I revealed to Computer Weekly that the Opposition would not be duped into accepting a dog's breakfast of legislation by waving through the Government's draft e-commerce Bill. This week I hope to explain our concerns in detail.

The Bill should be about building confidence in new technology and stimulating its use in the UK. We strongly believe that confirmation that electronic signatures are legal would go a long way towards achieving this.

Ian Taylor began this process as science minister three years ago. Since then technical opinion has moved on, and it has become ever more clear that we need to be wary of a "big bang approach" which ignores the fact that technology is not fixed, and that bad law can soon become a constraint on its progress.

Going beyond a minimalist approach risks locking industry into fossilised technology. The Germans made this mistake when they legislated way back in 1994. We need to learn from their mistakes. An industry as fast moving as e-commerce needs the flexibility to go down new paths - wherever the technology takes it.

An ideal Bill would therefore be no more than a few pages. It would guarantee signatures required for e-commerce, but firmly separate law enforcement issues from e-commerce facilitation. It would relieve industry of uncertainty, not by casting cryptography services in stone, but by allowing the industry to self-regulate.