Government trials digital signatures on mobile phones

Arlene Martin

The government is to carry out the first UK trials of mobile digital signatures in a bid to promote m-commerce.

Employees of the Radiocommunications Agency will use digital signatures, based on PKI encryption technology, to submit expense claims by mobile phone next month.

The agency, a branch of the Department of Trade and Industry, is working with Vodafone on the trial.

Vodafone UK managing director Paul Donovan, said, “Legally recognisable electronic signatures are fundamental to our mobile commerce strategy. As the government has already announced plans to allow individuals to submit tax returns electronically using digital signatures, we hope that these trials will go some way towards establishing the technology and help the DTI to promote the UK as the European leader of mobile technology.”

Digital signatures are the electronic equivalent of their handwritten counterparts. To create a digital signature a mobile phone user enters a PIN number into a handset which is then verified by the mobile phone’s SIM. This digital signature can then be sent with a message as a guarantee of its authenticity.

The latest trials are using PKI encryption technology because it is cheaper than other similar technologies. Vodafone says that mobile telephones with PKI-based digital signatures will be commercially available later this year after it has conducted a series of trials.

In December, the government announced plans to implement PKI security throughout the NHS within the next 12 months.

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