Hongkong Post has pinned its hopes on a card that does everything but talk A digital certificate that carries the same legal status as a handwritten signature will be embedded in the new smart ID card to encourage people to use the Internet for shopping and paying bills. Hongkong Post, the official certification authority, will offer one year's free trial to people using its 'e-Cert'' services. The digital certificate will be stored in the new smart ID cards when the government starts to replace all existing 6.8 million conventional identity cards from the middle of the year. People need to inform immigration officers to incorporate the digital certificate when they apply for the new ID card. Hongkong Post estimated that about four million people would choose to have 'the e-Cert' incorporated in their smart ID cards. With the e-Cert, people can securely conduct bank transactions, pay taxes, place bets or make payments over the Internet, according to a spokeswoman for the project. The e-Cert, an electronic programme consisting of an encryption of the user's personal information, was first launched by Hongkong Post in January 2000, but has only attracted 78,000 users since. Hongkong Post found that people have been discouraged by such issues as the lack of user-friendliness, the need to renew the e-Cert every year and the $50 annual fee. Hongkong Post hoped by offering the e-Cert free of charge and storing it on the new ID card, people would gradually get used to the idea. It will review the scheme next year to see if it will continue to offer the certificate for free. A wide range of government services has now started to accept e-Cert as the government turns to high-technology to reduce its administration costs. The government will begin replacing identity cards from this year until 2007. Each new card will have a memory chip that can be programmed as a library card or a driving licence, starting from June 2005.