Headlines: June 22nd, 1999

Successful completion of a two year electronic form project has opened the digital door for communicating with public bodies. Traditionally, Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise and Contributions Agency have required six forms to be completed for business start-ups. The project reduced this to one electronic form.

The electronic form was a joint project between departments, EDS, Microsoft and NatWest bank. The form was digitally signed using smartcard technology provided by NatWest. This is the first digital signature to be accepted as legal by the UK Government. The pilot was run by Natwest in several of its branches. The service was later brought into the home using a take-home-and-keep smartcard developed by Barclays Bank.

The project has established the principles for future electronic government projects. It is expected that other commercial systems for issuing and managing electronic signature smartcards will become available in the next twelve months. This would support a wider rollout of electronic forms which will play an important part in achieving the target of 25% of dealings with government being capable of being done electronically by 2002.