A shift to digital: what are we waiting for?

LCP Roofing has improved upon the way they conduct inspections with their recently launched Inspecta App that puts all inspection documentation in the palm of the inspector’s hands and renders the entire communication chain around each inspection completely electronic.

The Inspecta App, an integrated roof inspection application, comes with a host of advantages, from eliminating the possibility of drive-by inspections, or structures being illegally signed off without being inspected (and therefore protecting all along the value chain) to offering 256 bit encryption on the electronic inspection documentation as well as the ability to sign off on inspections using an electronic signature.

The certification method represents a major breakthrough in the method of certificate production and is fully supported by the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA). The technology proves an inspector’s presence on site with GPS co-ordinates and images; a refreshing solution to the serious problem in South Africa where many certificates are signed off by engineers who have not seen the sites they’re signing off on or even know where they are. All major banks conduct their vehicle finance transactions in this manner.

Even with this technology that makes inspections both easier and safer, some government departments do not accept digitally signed documents.

Signatura (www.signatura.co.za), a company pioneering paperless documentation using e-signatures for streamlined and more productive operations, covers legal compliance regarding e-signatures as follows:

With the introduction of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 (ECT Act) South Africa followed a global trend to recognize the legality of electronic signatures.

In South Africa, as indeed in most countries, the primary focus of a signature is the “intention to authenticate”. The ECT Act recognizes data as the functional equivalent of writing, or evidence in writing, by guaranteeing data messages the same legal validity as messages written on paper. It states that a requirement under law that a document or information be in writing is met if the document or information is in the form of a data message and accessible in a manner usable for subsequent reference to a person who either wants to rely on the existence of a particular agreement or for record purposes.

The ECT Act defines an “electronic signature” as “data attached to, incorporated in, or logically associated with other data and which is intended by the user to serve as a signature”. The ECT Act further provides (at Section 13(2)) that:

 an electronic signature is not without legal force and effect merely on the grounds that it is in electronic form 

This clearly indicates that electronic signatures are legally recognised in South African law.

The ECT Act has opened the way for organisations to leverage the significant benefits associated with the paperless environment by granting legal status to electronic signatures thereby significantly reducing the legal risk. Empowered by legislation, and driven by the significant expense reduction inherent with the paperless environment, leading business and government organizations worldwide are transitioning to electronic correspondence, e-Transactions and e-Commerce via the Internet.

It is thus imperative that industry and the public sector begin to recognize and act upon the legitimacy of electronic signatures. Digital has the potential to advance both private business and public operations even further into the future, improve on turnaround times, efficiency and the security of intellectual property. This requires only a small shift in thinking from pen to keyboard and a willingness to try something new.

 

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