MISSING LINK

Adopt digital signatures to spur e-commerce, digital economy

In Summary
  • To reap the full benefits of E-commerce and M-commerce, we have to fully trust the supporting infrastructure, the Internet
  • Economies such as Singapore, Denmark, Rwanda and Egypt are doing very well on M-Commerce because trust online has been reinforced by this technology
E-commerce website
E-commerce website

The government's vision is to digitally empower Kenyans in a digitally enabled society as per the country’s Digital Economy Blueprint 2019.

That document states that we envision a nation where every citizen, enterprise and organisation have digital access and the capability to participate and thrive in the digital economy. This is the dream of every Kenyan citizen.

With the rising cost of living, a digitally enabled economy will not only decrease the burden of travelling from point A to B to get services, it will also eliminate a lot of bureaucracy that come with transparency risks.                            

In the last 10 years, we have experienced significant improvement in service delivery through digitisation initiatives. Gone are the days when you would have to physically visit KRA offices to drop your tax returns and visit NHIF offices to deliver your monthly payment.

We now have more than 30 services available online. These include iTax, NTSA’s TIMS, certificate of good conduct from the DCI, Business Registration Services for companies, Civil Registration Department, Application of Passports at Department of Immigration Services, to mention but a few.

Digital economy and electronic transactions ecosystem will enable electronic identification of persons, entities, organisations and machines in a reliable way. The need for this trust, called “trustonline” requires the adoption of a digital identity for both corporates and individuals. Public Key Infrastructure technology using digital certificates (equivalent to electronic identity cards or wet ink signature) is a highly secure form of electronic identification that also protects electronic data.

A digital signature or an electronic signature is a mathematical formula routinely used to prove that a transaction is genuine (eg, an email, a credit card transaction, or a digital document). Digital signatures create a virtual fingerprint that is unique to a person, an individual or an entity and is used to identify users and protect information in digital messages or documents and associate them with specific persons. In emails, the email content itself becomes part of the digital signature.

It is now upon the government agencies and the private sector to adopt this technology in order to enhance efficiency, reduce costs and provide for trust in their respective lines of business or the services they offer.

The integration of digital signatures into various government services as a form of online security and identity will increase the level of trust between customers, business partners, vendors and ultimately the citizens. This will be achieved through:

(a) Authentication: The digital signature guarantees a person’s online identity for the service.

(b) Integrity: Detects any changes that may have taken place accidentally or intentionally while the data is stored or transmitted over the Internet.

(c ) Non-repudiation: Ensures all parties to a transaction cannot convincingly deny having participated in the transaction.

(d) The confidentiality service enables electronic data (files and communications) to be protected, and controls access to the data using high-level authentication mechanisms.

For the government, and to a greater extent the private sector, to reap the full benefits of E-commerce and M-commerce, we have to fully trust the supporting infrastructure, the Internet.

And this is the reason why Kenya needs to embrace digital signatures, the missing link. Countries and economies such as Singapore, Denmark and closer home Rwanda and Egypt are doing very well on M-Commerce because trust online has been reinforced by this technology.

We have seen the government, through the relevant agencies, develop relevant laws and regulations that support NPKI. We have the KICA Act, which allows for electronic means of authenticating and signing documents, The Business Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Regulations, 2020 and the Land Registration (Electronic Transactions) Regulations, 2020 provide for various uses and applications of digital and electronic signatures.

It is now upon the government agencies and the private sector to adopt this technology in order to enhance efficiency, reduce costs and provide for trust in their respective lines of business or the services they offer.

The NPKI shall be delivered through close technical and operational collaboration between the ICT Authority and the Communications Authority led by the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs.

Manager, Communication at ICT Authority