The UK government has snubbed the Mac. According to Macworld UK , Mac users have been “disenfranchised” by the UK government’s bid to offer all government services online because the digital-certification system adopted by the e-government developers will only support Internet Explorer 5.01 running on Windows machines.
And who are those e-government developers? Microsoft and Dell. The site in question, Government Gateway, is supposed to be the portal to all UK e-government services. It’s part of a plan to get all government services online by 2005. According to info on the site, registering with the Government Gateway enables you to sign up for any of the UK Government’s services that are available over the Internet. When you have completed the registration process, you’ll be able to use a single User ID or digital certificate to send and receive forms, such as Tax returns and VAT returns. Forms can be sent using “appropriate Government web sites, portals or third party software packages,” according to Government Gateway info.
The site claims to have been developed for most platforms, including Macs. Among systems that supposedly compatible are Macs running System 7.5 or later and either Microsoft Internet Explorer (v5.0 or later) or Netscape Navigator (v4.08 or later). However, as the site points out, though you can access Government Gateway with these browsers, ChamberSign and Equifax digital certificates aren’t supported on the Macintosh. Macintosh users can currently only register for Government services that require a User ID and Password, not services that require a digital certificate (such as the Electronic VAT Return or MAFF IACS Area Aid Application).
Meanwhile, Linuxuser magazine ran tests and found that non-Microsoft browsers were refused entry, or offered limited functionality. The problem is due to the need for digital certification for all online government services that involve digital exchange, according to the magazine.
The developers’ explanation is that non-Microsoft browsers don’t give proper support for SSL (Secure Sockets Layers) and digital certificates, according to Macworld UK. However, Linuxuser says these claims just don’t cut it. Linuxuser denies this and offers a detailed explanation of how server-authenticated HTTPS services can be provided with standards-compliant browsers.
“The problem with authentication is not the certification as such, but the proprietary software … [which] has the effect of tying the end user into a specific technology that is apparently available only to Microsoft clients,” reports Linuxuser.