You snooze, you lose
02 Oct 2018
In emerging markets and in some Third World countries, mobile services involving smartphones are sometimes more widespread than in old Europe. This is obvious since many processes that have literally functioned for centuries in our country are not even established there. To put it in a nutshell, the conclusion of a deal by shaking hands is directly replaced by the conclusion of a transaction with digital authentication and authorization.
Digitization in administration
Despite well-functioning approval and signature processes, companies in old Europe are required to approach the implementation of procedures for eSignatures and particularly remote signatures as soon as possible. This is particularly important in public administration. Two exemplary cases should explain this: The digitization of procedures in the health care system and the electronic health records of the private sector, which are now being created parallel to the electronic health record in Germany, will sooner or later require a digital signature to authenticate one’s own person at the doctor’s, pharmacy or hospital.
Digital authorisation is also gaining in importance in the healthcare sector: whether it is a declaration of consent to treatment or consent to the processing of data in accordance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): without a digital signature, fewer and fewer procedures can be carried out within the framework of legal provisions.
The situation is not much different in the private sector. Just take a look at how often you sign digitally. Whether at the car rental company, at the parcel messenger, at the breakdown service for your vintage car, recently also when receiving a registered letter, at the supermarket cash register or at the petrol station, in the wholesale market and on countless other occasions – you already sign with a digital device. But is it really worth it?
Complex IT problem
But all these solutions do not have only one flaw: These digital signatures are neither forgery-proof (just about everyone can scribble something there), nor are they examined carefully for example by the credit card issuers. In any case, I have often wondered what scribbles are recognized as authorization.
Another flaw of the scribble is its incompatibility. For example, it is impossible to compare my scribble at the gas station with the scribble at the wholesale market. In addition to the incompatibility of the scribbles, the solutions of the scribbling software are also incompatible. So if a supplier for the supermarket’s checkout solution is left behind, it could be necessary to go back to PIN. For me as a customer this may be of secondary importance, but for the supermarket chain it is a complex IT problem.
Public proximity looks different
Especially in large German cities and in particular in the German capital Berlin, the classical procedures suffer – above all from a lack of personnel. Electronic remote signatures could speed up many procedures such as applying for certificates of good conduct, identity papers, license plates or the like. A final check by an administrative employee would still be possible during issue. At present, however, only two services can be used as an online service: applying for a resident parking permit and applying for a day-care voucher. The latter must also be applied for online no later than two months before the child is to go to the day care centre, and the processing time, according to the respective website, is a considerable “six to eight weeks”.
More urgent than ever in industry
Apart from the DSGVO already mentioned further above, which concerns above all the B2C processes, also B2B procedures are digitalized successively. EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) is still a widespread form of document transfer between companies. Whenever authorization by a human being is required – and this should be the case with every new document that causes costs – traditional processes start.
With the current technological trends such as Industry 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT) and the ever-increasing process automation in IT, completely new corporate areas and business processes are becoming the focus of digital document exchange. Digital support of these processes, which are often still carried out on paper, is becoming increasingly urgent in the course of digital transformation. Here it is important for the user companies not to rely on outdated procedures such as entering signatures via stylus and tablet or handheld, but to orient themselves to the latest state of the art.
While people like to equip themselves with the latest smartphones and use various digital technologies, the procedures in companies, in the health sector and in public administration often lag behind what is feasible today. There are considerable differences between the countries of Europe. Countries that are already well ahead of Germany in terms of eSignatures and digital (citizen) services include Estonia and Austria.
About the author
Holm Landrock is a freelance journalist, PR consultant and author based in Berlin. Since 1982, he has been writing about the various facets of corporate IT systems and solutions. Most recently published: “Landrock, Holm/Baumgärtel, Anne: Die Industriedrohne – der fliegende Roboter”, Springer Vieweg, Wiesbaden 2018. ISBN 978-3-658-21354-1