MasterCard International and a Malaysian bank have announced one of the more ambitious on-line shopping programs to make use of the Secure Electronic Transaction protocol.

The card association and Hong Leong Bank said they expect to issue digital certificates to as many as 10,000 cardholders by yearend to enable on-line purchases protected by the Internet payment standard known as SET.

The system has progressed more rapidly in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe than in North America. MasterCard has SET programs in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. Malaysia, with its national policy of promoting electronic commerce, could prove especially fertile ground.

The SET initiative coincides with the launch of MEPS, the Malaysian Electronic Payment System. Fifty MasterCard merchant SET certificates also are to be issued, to stimulate electronic commerce.

"When more than 10,000 MasterCard personalized digital certificates are issued, MasterCard and Hong Leong Bank will assume market leadership," said Jim Cheah, MasterCard's country manager for Malaysia."We estimate that the number of digital certificates issued will double from this initial figure."

The certificates are digital identities that authenticate banks, merchants, and cardholders. Mr. Cheah said 2.2 million Malaysians could be on the Internet by next year and that within a decade 10% to 15% of MasterCard's Asia-Pacific volume could be on-line.

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