Though the topic is initially about pension, I think the aspect of digital signature to access govenment services is part of a wider discussion. I'm reporting here on what I just found out for pensions, which actually left me gobsmacked!
We've probably all heard about the e-initative to access German government services digitally.
Anyway, I just called the Rentenversicherung as I couldn't make head nor tail of their website on the different ways to access your pension records online.
I was under no illusions that soft and hardware would be involved.
But what I wasn't expecting, was that in order to use the eID function you have to PAY for the card readers to use on your computer to access government information about you. I was expecting it'd be govenment-provided, but nope.
The 2 options are:
1) E-id with GERMAN ONLY ID card *with* e-function specifically activated by a Beamter AND a card reader you have to order, pay for, replace if broken. (eu26 nationals in Germany therefore can't use this method, since they won't need or get issued an e-Aufenthaltstitel as the only other compatible ID card)
2) E-id with BOTH.
i) digital signature card (NOT a Krankenkasse card. NOT a bank card. It's a specially printed and pressed card). You have to order, pay for and replace the card.
ii) a card reader that you have to order, pay for, and replace if faulty.
They're really sly and don't mention about the costs in any of their literature. It wouldn't surprise me if you're talking about needing to fork out a few hundred Euros JUST to be able to digitally access information the government holds about you / access govt services.
I already pay my pension contributions and various taxes. I would have thought that the costs of implementing e-id are part offset by the cost-savings of going paperless + automation + labour cost savings, with any remainder cost being born by taxpayer/contributor. But nope...