For a long time, many people wondered when it will be possible to get and use an advanced electronic signature. Well, they finally are a reality now, and the law even specifically requires you to use them, in some cases. An advanced electronic signature is basically an electronic signature that has been accredited by the South African Accreditation Authority.
Why would you want an advanced electronic signature?
Certainty is something you and all other people require. You need to be certain about who you are dealing with whether it is in your business transactions or in other areas of your daily life. For the contracts you are party to, you need to be sure that people agree to enter into the contracts with you, are able to sign easily, and that they actually do sign. We don’t want to be the victims of fraud.
This is where electronic signatures, and more specifically, advanced electronic signatures, come in. You could use your them to sign an electronic document and it would be valid and binding just like your handwritten signature. For example, a Commissioner of Oaths could sign an electronic copy of an original paper document with their advanced electronic signature and create a certified electronic copy of the original. The certified electronic copy can then be e-mailed to anybody that requires it, saving time and effort.
How do you use one?
We have all been holding thumbs for years waiting for them to become a reality. All sorts of possibilities are now a reality. LAWtrust made history when it became the first accredited SA provider of advanced electronic signatures. I have been through the face-to-face verification process and I have an advanced electronic signature. LAWtrust is no longer the only accredited SA provider, the South African Post Office also became one as well. To get you an advanced electronic signature, these accredited providers issue you with a digital certificate that you can use with your ordinary electronic signature.
As exciting as the prospect of using advanced electronic signatures might be, using them where they are not required by law can be an onerous step. The face-to-face authentication of each person that needs to sign before they receive digital certificate associated with their advanced electronic signature, can lengthen the process. Therefore, you should probably only use advanced electronic signatures when the law requires you to do so or you want to take advantage of certain benefits associated with them.
But many of you have questions:
- Are they enforceable?
- Do I have to use an advanced electronic signature or is an electronic signature sufficient?
- Are they legally valid and binding?
- Do they have legal authority?
- What are the applicable laws?
Actions you can take
- Increase your knowledge on electronic signature law by attending a workshop on practically using electronic signatures and the law.
- Answer all your questions about cryptography and the ECT Act.
- Get a crash course in electronic signatures by getting the Michalsons Electronic Signature Handbook.