Belgium introducing Java-based ID cards

Belgium has begun introducing the country’s first electronic identification cards.

The Belgium government issued Java-based cards to residents in 11 cities last week, with the goal of eventually providing every Belgian resident over 12 years old with an electronic identification (EID) card, Sun Microsystems Inc. said in a statement Thursday.

Sun, which is providing the technology, said the EID project is the single largest government deployment of Java card technology in Europe. No date has been set for its completion.

The credit-card sized card will include the same information as traditional Belgian identity cards, such as name, photo and date of birth, on an advanced Java-enabled chip, according to the Santa Clara, California, hardware and software vendor.

The card will allow Belgian citizens to authenticate themselves electronically in an easy and secure way whenever they access e-government services, Jan Deprest, president of Belgium’s Federal ICT (Information Communication and Technology) department, said in Sun’s statement. Citizens will also be able to use the card to apply their electronic signature to digital documents, he said.

Java-based card technology allows multiple applications to coexist on a single smart card, which can also act as a secure, individual digital signature to applications, Sun said.