TechnologyGovernment pushes digital signatures

Government pushes digital signatures

The government is seeking to encourage the use of digital certificates as a means of delivering online services, despite an apparent lack of interest from business.

‘Fifteen to 20% [of online government services} will need strong authentication or signing,’ said Steve Marsh, security and authentication deputy director at the office of the e-Envoy.

Marsh believes that providing a choice of digital signatures will be key in delivering government services online. By providing a number of certificates, Marsh said, users would have the choice of which to use for specific functions and this will increase the chances of adoption, he added.

But business has so far been unimpressed by digital certificates, despite government enthusiasm, said Graham Titterington, a senior analyst at research firm Ovum. ‘The take-up of public key incryption in general has been disappointing so far,’ he said.

Marsh acknowledged that privacy concerns, difficulties in registering, cost and lack of applications were barriers to take-up. There would be public consultation to examine how to overcome this, he said.

The office of the e-Envoy’s working group on strong authentication has been reviewing transactions between business and government and leading on the consultation process. It will produce its final report in February.

Some high-profile firms are using digital certificates in transactions with government departments. This month car manufacturer Nissan announced it would use ChamberSign for tax returns.

However, the Inland Revenue was unable to confirm how many tax returns completed online had used a digital certificate.

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Public slow to adopt digital signatures

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