The Ministry of Finance expects that 350,000 enterprises will register to use digital signatures by the year-end, according to a report in Dau Tu (Vietnam Investment Review) newspaper.

About 20 percent, or 124,594 enterprises, have used digital signatures for e-procedures such as business registrations, taxation declarations and banking transactions.

Service suppliers said this is an impressive number, but still much lower than market demand.

The Public Certificate Authority Services issues the signatures.

Ngo Tuan Anh, Director of Bkav Telecom, which is one of six companies specialising in digital signature services, said the use of e-signatures saves transport and printing costs, and allows companies to better manage their paperwork.

If enterprises use a digital signature for declaring taxes via the internet, they can cut costs by three-fourths compared with expenses paid the normal way.

Taxation agency work has also been significantly reduced because of the use of digital signatures.

However, most Vietnamese enterprises use digital signatures for electronic customs and taxation declarations only.

Anh said using electronic signatures will cut down on the time needed to grant business licences, thus improving the business environment in the country.

A representative of another digital signature service provider, who declined to be named, said Stage management agencies should use more IT to increase the number of electronic public administration services and public digital signatures.

There needs to be better coordination among agencies as well.

The services of the taxation and customs agencies, for example, have proved to be incompatible, which has caused difficulties in operation. Meanwhile, enterprises still have concerns about the security of digital signatures, fearing that the signatures can be forged.

In addition, there is no law or regulations that says the digital signature of businesses is equivalent to the stamp or signature of the representative, according to the representative.

So, even though many businesses understand that digital signatures can help them cut time and costs, they still balk at their use.

To improve the situation, the investment ministry has been upgrading the national enterprise registration-information system so that it can supply adequate legal information on enterprise registration.

This work is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information and Communications said that it has temporarily stopped granting licenses for digital-signature supply businesses through 2015 to ensure quality as well as healthy competition among service providers.-VNA