Macintosh users have been disenfranchised by the UK government's bid to offer all government services online, reports claim.

This is because the digital-certification system adopted by the e-government developers – Microsoft and Dell – will only support Internet Explorer 5.01 running on Windows machines.

The site, gateway.gov.uk, is to be the portal to all UK e-government services, and is a central plank of Labour's plans to get all government services online by 2005. On its front page it claims to have developed the site for most platforms, including Macs.

Linuxuser magazine ran tests and found that non-Microsoft browsers were refused entry, or offered limited functionality. The problem, claims the publication, is caused by the need for digital certification for all online government services that involve digital exchange.

The gateway uses certificates from Equifax and ChamberSign – and these do not work on the Mac.

The developers' explanation is that non-Microsoft browsers do not give proper support for SSL (Secure Sockets Layers) and digital certificates. Linuxuser refutes these claims.

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."