With last year’s enactment of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), there is now a push for federal agencies to digitize manual processes and accelerate the usage of electronic signatures.
This act focuses on promoting data driven, secure, personalized, and mobile friendly federal website standards, as well as the digitization of all paper-based forms to keep the government up-to-date with changes in technology and trends in the public sphere. The goal of 21st Century IDEA is to streamline processes in order to facilitate the relationship between the government and its citizens. A recent study published by Adobe and WPP emphasized this relationship, showing that citizens across seven evaluated countries want tailored digital experiences in their government interactions.
As agencies work toward digitization, jobs will be made easier through the use of e-signature tools which save agencies time and resources while enabling citizens to sign documents without having to print, sign, and scan.
A Brief History of E-Signatures
Electronic signatures became legally recognized through the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) of 2000 and on the state side through the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). The ESIGN act states that “a signature, contract, or other record relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.”
The ESIGN Act makes it possible for legally binding transactions to take place electronically. These transactions can be incorporated into to any process, document, or situation. With current e-signature tools, users can sign in a variety of ways, including typing their name, using a mouse or stylus to draw their name, or even uploading a picture of their signature for that “wet signature” look. Electronic signatures are even being used during internet transactions each time someone clicks “I agree.”
E-Signatures in Action
E-signature tools are key components of agency initiatives to go ‘paperless.’ For example, the Utah Department of Technology Services (DTS) was interested in extending intelligent forms to mobile and tablet devices. By combining digital forms with electronic signature tools, government workers in remote locations gained the ability to quickly issue permits and file reports on-site, rather than wait to process paperwork in an office environment.
E-signatures and modernization go hand-in-hand, especially for agencies that provide public services and have many users accessing those services on mobile devices.
Choosing Your Tools
As technology advances, audiences grow to expect more modern tools; therefore, agencies who provide public services are encouraged to digitize and transition to electronic signatures. Addressing the needs of the public (i.e. mobile delivery, accessibility, web-based forms) are worthwhile trends for government to follow when taking action to modernize.
Currently, agencies may face challenges in having to digitize or update older content, adapt it for mobile platforms, and make it secure; agencies who employ electronic signature tools will be able to adjust and more easily meet performance benchmarks. Electronic signature tools make it possible for agencies to create digital, fillable forms, securely collect signatures in minutes, track documents as needed, and host them for easier public access.
The features and capabilities that individual agencies need will depend on their particular processes and workflows, but key features to look for may include file conversion capability, form creation ability, the availability of widgets to host forms online, or the option to sign forms on mobile/directly through a browser.
View Adobe’s archived webinar on best practices for electronic and digital signatures that uphold document legality, increase security, and streamline processes.