More than $240 million has been spent on the government's e-Cert system, providing a type of virtual identity card - but it is failing to attract many users. The e-Cert electronic certificate is embedded in the new smart ID cards and is also available in conjunction with a CD-Rom, allowing it to be used online. But Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology John Tsang Chun-wah admitted in the Legislative Council yesterday that he himself found it complicated to use the e-Cert for online transactions. He vowed that the technology would be improved, saying the system would be a 'necessity' in the future. 'It could be that citizens are not used to conducting online transactions, much like when automatic-teller machines first came into use,' he said in response to a question from Tsang Yok-sing. 'But after people got used to the machines they found them to be a necessity. It should be the same with the e-Cert. That is why the government feels there is a need to put resources into developing it in the long run.' By the end of last month, the Hong Kong Post Certification Authority had issued about 880,000 personal e-Certs embedded in ID cards. However, only about 10 per cent of e-Cert holders actually used the certificates, according to a November survey. Mr Tsang said one reason might be that there were not enough businesses that accept e-Certs online. He vowed to strengthen promotion of the certificates to the business community and the general public. Currently, three banks accept e-Cert transactions. Mr Tsang said he wanted that increased to 12. Use of an e-Cert during an online transaction carries the same legal weight as a signature. It can be used in conjunction with a card reader at libraries or supermarkets, for online purchases or to provide more security for banking online. Similar to the ID card in the physical world, the e-Cert acts as the online identity in the cyber world.