The Eighteen Character Problem

Metadata, Electronic Document Management and the Digital Library for E-commerce

Tom Worthington FACS

Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University, Canberra
For: Computing 3410 Students, The Australian National University
This document is Version 1.1 22 July 2000:
Accompanying text:
Next Slide

Note: For on-screen presentation increase the font size on your web browser until this text disappears off the bottom and one "slide" fills the screen. "Click" on the blank area below each slide to bring up the next slide.


Next Slide


Metadata (Data about Data) is essential for e-commerce, as it provides standard data items to allow parties to communicate about their organisations, products, terms and conditions. Also the actual payment and the "money" itself consists of data in an agreed meta-data format, in an electronic transaction.

Electronic Document Management allows legally recognised documents used in e-commerce transactions to be created, transmitted and stored. Without electronic document management, fast and efficient e-commerce transactions would be buried under mounds of paper documenting the transactions. The Digital Library has the potential to allow access to electronic documents, while respecting the intellectual property right of the author.

Next Slide

Commonwealth Electronic Procurement Implementation Strategy

Next Slide

Online Strategy

The e-procurement strategy is part of the Government's overall Online Strategy:

Origins can be traced back to: Network Services ( Clarke 1994 )

Next Slide

Three projects under this strategy are:

Next Slide

Getting paid on the Internet

Next Slide

Eighteen Character Problem

The Commonwealth Electronic Procurement Implementation Strategy proposes use of the Direct Entry system to pay all suppliers electronically by the end of 2000.

The banking system only provides an 18 character description field sent with the payment in which to record what the payment is for.

BPAY electronic bill payment service, uses check digits to detect transcription errors in the reference field. However, the standardised finanacial system has no such checking.

How to fit a standard, complete and reliable description of the payment into this small field can be termed the Eighteen Character Problem.

Next Slide

Proposed payment process

Next Slide

Electronic remittance advice will be provided in one of the following ways:

  1. the agency sends an electronic remittance advice to the supplier either directly or through a third party who delivers the advice in a format acceptable to the supplier (e.g. EDIPOST, FaxPOST, Lettergram); or
  2. the agency's bank transmits the electronic remittance advice on the agency's behalf (allowing for consolidation of payments and respective remittance advice).

Next Slide

Next Slide

Postscript: The Zero Character Problem

Next Slide

Further Information


Material from the Office for Government Online , Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the Business Entry Point Management Branch , Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, is Copyright (Commonwealth of Australia) and is used by permission.

References: See accompanying text:

Comments and corrections

Copyright © Tom Worthington 2000

Next Slide