Germans reluctant to use digital signatures

German Internet users have shown little interest in using digital signatures, according to a study published by the market...

German Internet users have shown little interest in using digital signatures, according to a study published by the market research group Fittkau & Maass.

The study follows an announcement by the German government of an initiative to promote electronic verification technology in the public sector.

Only 5.8% of the 94,000 Internet users surveyed say they use the technology, according to Fittkau & Maass. More than 80 Internet service providers (ISPs) with more than 200 Web sites participating in the survey.

"We see two primary reasons for the limited interest in digital signatures," said a spokesman for Fittkau & Maass. "People are generally not well informed about this technology, and they are concerned about the cost of using it."

Digital signatures or certificates, could allow people to use the Internet to sign up for bank accounts, pay taxes and more, all without paper.

The German Ministry of the Interior announced an initiative to promote the technology. Under the "Alliance for Digital Signatures" initiative, the German federal government will support digital signatures for the most of its 350 online services.

Brigitte Zypries, secretary of state at the Ministry of the Interior, said the market for digital signature services "needs a powerful push" which, she believes, can be achieved through a close co-operation between the public and private sectors. The government, she said, is considering ways to support, in particular, suppliers of digital signature chip cards.

Zypries also called for intensified efforts to co-ordinate digital signature standards at the national and international levels.

In January, the federal government approved the widescale use of digital signatures in public administration.

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