Fields of application of electronic signature
Nowadays, many business processes are still paper-based because signatures are required. The signature is used for different approvals and letters of intent which are partly used for internal purposes, but partly represent the binding obligations of the company. Providing a same or even better authenticity of documents, the electronic signature can be employed in almost all cases. The paper volume can thus be dramatically reduced and the environmental aspect is given due consideration.
In e-government, in health care services and for processes between industry and public administration, electronic signatures are allowed to be used. In some cases they are even obligatory. The qualified signature enables paper-free processes within private enterprises and between them.
The advantages of electronic signature
The implementation of electronic signatures in internal and external business processes offers huge cost-saving potentials due to its paper-free form. Cost savings result from:
Laws for signature
As a result of the EU Signature Directive from 1999 all European countries have laws for signature acceptance. Besides the Digital Signature Act and the Signature Regulation, the electronic signature is included in many laws in Germany. The relevant laws and regulations range from the German Civil Code (BGB) and the German Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO), to the German Value-Added Tax Act for electronic invoicing and to the industry-specific regulations of the SGB (Social Security Act) such as the scanning of accounting documents.
German lawmakers define the electronic signature in the Digital Signature Act §2 according to EU directive and distinguish:
The qualified signature meets the highest legal approval and, however, causes higher costs for purchasing and operation. As long as there is no concrete legal requirement, each case will be evaluated individually.
Technological versions of electronic signature
Whereas nowadays a SmartCard is often needed for qualified signatures, there are numerous versions for advanced signatures. Currently, the biometrical methods are here categorized where the user signs on a pad and can thus be recognized by his biometric characteristics. For many reasons, however, these methods are not completely accepted by law. Depending on the technological details, the level of security provided by biometric methods is comparable to the one provided by SmartCards.
One of B&L's managing directors was running the Competence Center of Electronic Signature at the Association for Organization and Information Systems (VOI) where many well-known manufacturers of all versions of electronic signature work closely together. We are still playing an active role in this competence center.
Due to different technological versions, organizational requirements and different standards, the risks and advantages of the implementation of an electronic signature system are not transparent enough for potential users. Providing appropriate methods, B&L enables their clients to build up a clear basis for decision making and to implement efficient and successful solutions.