Electronic Signature Adoption
Recently the press has been asking me a lot of questions about the adoption rate of electronic signatures so I thought it would be worth making a few comments on our blog about that topic looking at signatures in another light. The common misconception is that electronic signatures (digital signatures) aren't being adopted. Recent European Union bulletins have certainly contributed to this belief. The reality however tells a very different story.
The heart of an electronic signature comes from the public key infrastructure and the swapping of keys to authenticate a user. The goal is of course to verify that an individual is who they say they are and that their keys match the identity of the person authorized to complete whatever they are attempting to do. If this sounds at all familiar its because you are going through this procedure when you go to a bank machine and enter your PIN to withdraw cash. This is the digital equivalent to signing a withdrawal slip.
So how has adoption been of this type of technology? Here in Canada we've been using the Interac Direct Payment network for this type of transaction since 1984 by using our debit cards. In 2001 this payment method actually surpassed cash as the most popular form of retail payment in Canada. Sounds like good adoption to me. Likewise Internet Banking has also been growing at exceptional rates, again supporting the argument that adoption is growing.
The disconnect is that we don't really think of these transactions as applying our "signature" because they don't look like what we commonly accept as our signature, other wise known as the "wet ink" signature. Fundamentally though the traditional wet ink signature simply associates the identity of the individual with the intention with regard to the document in question. Although we have had centuries of doing this with our pens in the form of an autograph the reality is we are applying the digital form of our signatures, like what we use with the ATM, more frequently than we are probably aware.
Just yesterday I transferred money from one account to another over the internet, and used an eCheck to pay a bill, oh and used my debit card to pay for lunch, so I guess the real problem with adoption then is simple - branding!
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