Bundesrechenzentrum Case Study


When Bundesrechenzentrum, the IT service provider for the Austrian government, was tasked with developing a Web services-based solution for verifying electronic signatures, they turned to Altova.


Bundesrechenzentrum, an organization with 800 employees and revenues of 160 million Euros in 2003, is the main IT service provider for the government of Austria. In keeping with Austria’s growing commitment to and investment in electronic government solutions, the Basic eGovernment Services Department was formed within Bundesrechenzentrum in the summer of 2004. The department includes three focus areas. One is eDemocracy, which includes electronic voting for elections, polls, and referendums. Another division handles content management for services such as the Web site help.gv.at, a service portal for Austrian citizens, and Portal Austria, a platform for all Austrian public services. The third responsibility of the department is managing the electronic signatures and cryptography implementations that make all these eGovernment solutions possible.

Bundesrechenzentrum relied on the XML and Web services development capabilities of Altova XMLSpy to make Austria’s eGovernment initiative a rapid success.

The Challenge

Shortly after Bundesrechenzentrum’s Basic eGovernment Services Department was formed, they were tasked with the Modules for Online Applications (MOA) project, which involved developing a Web services-based solution for verifying electronic signatures. The MOA was conceived to be a milestone in secure information and data transfer, allowing the government to make public services available to citizens online – without sacrificing security. Friedrich Koller, Head of Signatures and Cryptography for Bundesrechenzentrum, led a team of six people focused on the MOA initiative.

The first assignment for Koller’s team was creating a solution for verifying electronic signatures associated with the Austrian Citizen Card, which would allow Austrian citizens to manage their dealings with the state online. With the Austrian Citizen Card, users would be able to complete their tax declarations with Finanz-Online and take advantage of interactive services at help.gv.at.

The Solution

Koller and his team developed an XML-based Web services solution for verifying electronic signatures associated with the Austrian Citizen Cards as well as other services included in the MOA project. All modules are based on XML, and Bundesrechenzentrum uses the W3C-standard XML Digital Signature (XMLDSIG) specification for the identification of electronic signatures. Koller explains, "As we designed MOA as a Web service using SOAP, it was quite obvious to us that we would also use XML. We have to transfer very complex information that includes optional parts. With the XML structure, we are able to omit those optional parts and still have the possibility to fill in the information correctly later. This improves the efficiency of requests tremendously. We also wanted to be able to verify the syntax of incoming data with a standard software application, which we can do by validating input against an XML Schema."

"We used XMLSpy for defining the XML structure and for developing the Web services application," Koller continues, explaining that Bundesrechenzentrum knew XMLSpy would help them build their application from the ground up as quickly and efficiently as possible. Bundesrechenzentrum utilized XMLSpy’s industry-leading visual XML Schema editor to design the signature verification data model, and the intuitive XML editor for creating and working with XML data files. They also took advantage of XMLSpy’s comprehensive Web services development tools, particularly the SOAP debugger. "The ability to switch between the different XMLSpy views (Text, Grid, Schema/WSDL, Authentic, Browser) was also of great importance to us," Koller adds.

The Results

The signature verification created by Koller’s team has enabled Austrians to use their Austrian Citizen Cards to complete secure transactions with Finanz-Online, and the application continues to be utilized as other services are implemented by the Basic eGovernment Services Department. The XML-based Web services application Bundesrechenzentrum developed with Altova XMLSpy made the idea of convenient, user-friendly, secure online access to government services in Austria a reality. Now that the technical basis for secure online data exchange is in place, citizens will be presented with more and more options accessing services online in a secure environment, saving time and money for users and the government alike.

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