Smart ID will feature free e-Certs to drum up support
To drum up support for next year's introduction of smart identity cards, the government will offer free digital certificates for the first year.
Hong Kong's smart ID cards contain an option to store the e-Cert digital certificates. Card holders can use them for e-banking and other activities requiring digital authentication.
According to Michael Chung Man-kit, Hongkong Post's director of products development and marketing, people can choose whether to have the e-Certs embedded in their Smart ID cards.
'We will have counters at the Immigration Department. When people are applying for new ID cards, they can just go to our counter nearby and tell us they want the e-Certs,' said Mr Chung. 'They do not need to fill in extra forms and it is free,' he said. 'The e-Cert will then be loaded on to the card at the time of issue.'
Hongkong Post, an official certification authority (CA) under the Electronic Transactions Ordinance, launched the e-Cert as the SAR's first mobile digital certification service in January 2000.
Under the ordinance, a digital signature supported by an e-Cert enjoys the same legal status as a handwritten signature.
The government plans to replace all existing 6.8 million identity cards with Smart ID cards in phases from the middle of next year to 2007. Each card will be embedded with a memory chip that can be programmed as a library card, driving licence or digital certificates starting from June 2005.
'We believe the security issues will be addressed as citizens can have their say whether to have these e-Certs embedded in their ID cards. Also, they can change their passwords whenever they want,' said Mr Chung.
Hongkong Post has issued just 78,000 e-Certs since its launch as a certification authority. The government issued an open tender in July for an upgrade of the CA system. The contract will be awarded in November.