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CeBIT fair bracing for 500,000 visitors

18 March 2004

HANOVER – The world’s largest computer, office equipment and telecommunications fair CeBIT opened its doors to the public on Thursday, with exhibitors hoping the show will get the information technology sector up and running again.

Fair organisers said they expected some 500,000 visitors at this year’s show running through 24 March, featuring over 6,400 exhibitors from more than 60 countries.

Traditionally a showcase for the latest innovations in IT products, the CeBIT this year is expected to unveil new developments in mobile Internet services, digital entertainment electronics and the startup of the third-generation mobile phone system UMTS.

At the official opening ceremonies Wednesday evening, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany is to make it easier for people to use personal electronic cards as “digital signatures” by the end of next year.

The signatures will be binding for both business and legal purposes, he said. Schroeder also said Germany’s economy was showing signs of recovery, with exports up since the start of the year and tax cuts beginning to lead to more consumption.

Schroeder’s centre-left government, which suffered an embarrassing setback with the two-year delay of an automated toll-collecting system for trucks, has not abandoned its visionary belief in “e- government”, or doing bureaucratic tasks via the internet.

The chancellor said the government would encourage technical innovation at the same time as persisting with economic reforms.

Some successes were already visible in Germany’s conversion to an “information society”, the Berlin leader said.

Berlin set up a committee last year to standardize competing systems of digital signatures, which are already legally binding but have not caught on widely in Germany. Health insurers and banks could be among those issuing the new multi-purpose cards.

“We want to create the conditions by the end of 2005 to conduct legal and business transactions by electronic signature in the whole country,” Schroeder said. The government would soon begin promoting the electronic cards, which Germans will use to seal documents.

“Our aim is to make public services more efficient. We want all citizens to have a stake in the digital future,” he said.


Subject: German News