The Inevitable Implication of eDAIS
The past decade or two has seen a complete transformation in the way development applications are lodged and processed. What was a completely paperbound process now relies on electronic systems to manage the approval process within Council and increasing adoption of online lodgement of applications. The only remaining paper bound part of the process is the decision notice which is printed, signed and mailed the old fashioned way.
Many Councils are now looking to close the loop by issuing development permits electronically.
Digitally signed development permits can be directly captured to your records system without the wasted effort and reduced fidelity of scanning a signed hard copy. You will also use less paper, save on printing costs and will waste less effort with a simplified outgoing mail process.
In making this transition it is important to ensure Council adopts a method for electronic signatures that is both simple and secure.
The most secure method for signing documents electronically uses the same standards that are used to secure all online banking and internet commerce. PKI digital signatures ensure:
- your signature cannot be copied to another document,
- that the signature is invalidated by any change to the document and
- your signature can be objectively validated as authentic.
You can start using a hosted digital signature service that avoids any need for capital purchases or upfront costs. You only pay for the documents you put through the service and costs are on par with the price of a stamp. Ensure you select a local provider to comply with privacy obligations. These videos demonstrate the simplicity of digitally signing your development permits.
On premise solutions are also available that allow you to sign documents from within your desktop software such as Office and Adobe Reader. These solutions also open up options to automate high volume tasks like signing large numbers of adjoining owners notifications.
2013 should be the year you start issuing digital development permits!
Click the ‘Ask Me Anything’ link above (it’s the “?” icon) if you’d like more information about how digital signatures work.
16 September 1959: The Day the Signature Died - with apologies to Don McLean.
Sometimes you get asked a question that there is no right answer to. Police officers used to be trained to ask you, “Why were you speeding?”. There is no right answer to that question. Any response agrees with the implied assumption in the question, that you were speeding. They don’t bother with this verbal jousting anymore as they usually have more than enough evidence for court without worrying about an implied admission.
For me, the question I get asked that has no right answer is, “Are digital signatures really as good as traditional signatures?”. The implicit assumption in this question is that wet ink signatures still provide any sense of reliability or authenticity! The value of a particular flourish on a printed page is dependent on it being difficult, expensive, or both, to reproduce.
The Xerox 914 plain paper copier was released on 16 September 1959. That was the day the signature died. Well, started to die, to be fair. Given you can buy a full colour multi function device that will scan, copy and print for $50, it’s safe to say the day the signature died has well and truly arrived!
Digital signatures are not as good as wet ink signatures; they are better, much better. Proper, PKI based digital signatures are not able to be copied, forged or tampered with. The document content is sealed and the signature invalidated if it is changed. The identity of the person who signed the document is irrevocably tied to the document.
A PKI digital signature gives you more confidence and reliability in a document than you ever had with a paper signature. Be aware though, not all digital signatures available offer all these advantages. Even some provided by the big brands of the IT industry fall surprisingly short.
Drop me a line and I can tell you the three things your digital signature solution must deliver for you.
A Prime Example
PKI: invented in the 70s, cheap, easy, used everyday. So why are we still printing things to sign?
A few years ago I read Simon Singh’s excellent book(pictured) on codes and the long history of trying to secure and authenticate information and went on a little personal campaign on public key infrastructure (PKI). For a while there, all my emails were digitally signed. Anyone who got one could have clicked the certificate to be sure that the email really, truly did come from me and not some imposter. I could have exchanged secure, encrypted emails with all of my friends and associates who also digitally signed their emails.
Of course that never happened because no one else I knew had an email certificate. For some of my friends, their mail system told them that my message was encrypted and couldn’t be read. One of my previous employer’s email system flatly rejected any message that was digitally signed. In the absence of any friends to play with and the ongoing hassle, I gave up and just reverted back to sending plain text, unauthenticated email messages.
The reality is, for most situations in my life, no one really cares enough to snoop on me or impersonate me. There are things in my life that do need securing though, and without any action on my part, PKI has crept into my day to day existence. The deceptive simplicity of this prime number wizardry is how I can buy things and do my banking online with a high degree of confidence my credit card and bank details are kept confidential; that no one can pretend to be me and spend my money.
Beyond financial transactions, there are many other situations where being able to digitally sign things would be useful. When it comes time to sign a contract or an agreement, most people are still printing these documents to be posted and signed by all parties. Most parts of government still send me back a physical letter in response to my email because of the signature thing.
At a meeting in Auckland, many years ago now, Mike Eyal told me about the tools he could provide to solve this problem. We’ve kept in touch over the years and I’ve always looked for opportunities to apply the tools he was bringing to market. Moving with the times, Mike’s digital signature service is now hosted and I’ve finally got a chance to be working with him. The solution is called Secured Signing and is available at www.securedsigning.com. Secured Signing hides all the technical complexity and makes digitally signing documents as easy as buying something online.
If you have a process that would benefit from being able to create legally binding documents electronically, I’d love the opportunity to explain how we can help. Just hit the Ask Me Anything button (it’s the question mark in a circle at the tope of the page) and I’ll get back to you!