Another failed eGovernment attempt: DE-Mail

I have to admit, I never groked eGovernment. I always saw these efforts as a subsidy for new technologies like electronic signatures or digital receipts.

This morning my wife asked me about a flyer in the paper promoting DE-Mail. First sign of failure: the message did not come across, my wife dropped the ad into the paper basket.

The idea behind DE-Mail is to provide a secure means of communication between government agencies and you. That’s already the first issue I have with DE-Mail – I live online, yet I had no desire to communicate with any government agency in the last 10 years (not that I can think of). I either call them or drop by directly – most of the time you need them to sign some document that they couldn’t send electronically anyway (passport, drivers license).

Here’s an excerpt from an article on DE-Mail (sorry – german only) that highlights all the great ideas:

Here’s what I think is wrong with DE-Mail:

What you need to do:

  • You need yet another EMail address. No, thank you very much.
  • You need to register at the post office with a passport
  • You can only use it from a special web site
  • Each session needs additional authorization with a mobile TAN

What you get for all that effort:

  • If a government agency sends you something it counts as delivered after 3 days, even if you’re not at home
  • Once you open your mailbox, the agency gets a digitally signed receipt. No more denial.
  • If you send something and want the agency to acknowledge receipt, YOU need to pay for that
  • You can send documents to people with no DE-Mail address. That will then be printed out and delivered via paper mail, at additional cost

Don’t think that will fly. At all.

Johannes Ernst, Master Simplifier: Really Simple XML Signatures

Johannes proposes a simplified approach to XML Signatures.

Actually, that’s how I thought it would work before I read that ‘XML Security’ book ;)

So, can anybody elaborate on why we can’t do that? I mean, apart from all the crap standards bodies: why not just do it, following the RSS example? The Atom guys can then spend the next few years telling us why we need a better namespace design.