A lack of online authentication services is undermining government plans to get all services online by 2005, according to the director of security policy at the Office of the e-Envoy.
Steve Marsh explained that new applications are being held back because it is still too hard to prove on the internet who an individual is and what they are entitled to.
He told vnunet.com: "The big problem is how to get a commercial model for asserting things about people, for providing trusted information.
"Four years ago we thought there would be a market for trust services. That's not happened in the time scale that we needed for our 2005 target.
"There was a feeling that the banks would have moved into this space. One of the big problems that trust service providers have is how to make money out of this and what is the liability."
Marsh insisted that the market needs to be jump started. "Companies that want to provide applications can't ask for strong authentication, but companies with strong authentication can't sell it because the applications aren't there. Somehow we need to make it attractive to use these services," he said.
But the digital identities have to be usable on digital TVs and mobile phones as well as PCs, he added.
Rivals Microsoft and industry consortium the Liberty Alliance are working on digital identity services, but the road ahead is hard, according to John Noakes, Microsoft's .Net policy and regulatory affairs director.
"Transforming physical trust into virtual trust in not an easy thing. It's not something that can be done tomorrow or even next year," he warned.
Noakes suggested that the internet needs a system with the same level of trust as the bank cashpoint network. "All you give it is a piece of plastic and a four digit number but you trust it will work," he said.
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