Widening Setting Processes for Electronic Signatures (WSPES)

Joinup Administrator
Published on: 23/04/2008
Document

For the public and private sector alike, there is a necessity to identify and prove which customers and when are carrying out secure transactions online. By using "digital certificates" a citizen can prove their identity when dealing with a Council or Business, as effectively as though they were face-to-face in an office. The technology behind this is proven, mature and is known as PKI (Public Key Infrastructure). W-SPES will try to widen its use by removing some of the existing obstacles and helping establish common ways of working across the EU. There is a shortage of applications which need this technology. The partners worked together in the earlier SPES project developing such applications and these will be shared with new partners joining the team. Similarly, there is a need for a certificate issued in one city to be recognisable in another. By setting processes for how these credentials should be issued in a standardised way and by working on the technical aspects needed for such mutual recognition, progress has been made. The project partners are the cities of Prato, Saarbruecken, Sheffield, Bremerhaven, Dundee, Koper and Sunderland along with participants from Prato and Piacenza. A technical partner, Axetel, will provide valuable experience gained in the project EU-PKI.

Policy Context

Directive 1999/93/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 1999 on a Community framework for electronic signatures. This Directive lays down the criteria that form the basis for legal recognition of electronic signatures by focusing on certification services.

These comprise the following:

  • common obligations for certification service providers in order to secure transborder recognition of signatures and certificates throughout the European Community;
  • common rules on liability to help build confidence among users, who rely on the certificates, and among service providers;
  • cooperative mechanisms to facilitate transborder recognition of signatures and certificates with third countries. The main provision of the Directive states that an advanced electronic signature based on a qualified certificate satisfies the same legal requirements as a handwritten signature. It is also admissible as evidence in legal proceedings.

In addition, an electronic signature may not legally be refused simply because:

  • it is in electronic form;
  • it is not based on a qualified certificate;
  • it is not based upon a qualified certificate issued by an accredited certification service provider;
  • it is not created by a secure signature-creation device.

The work of this project will enable additional type of transactions to be carried out online, confident that security and privacy is being taken care of. We need to create a large number of uses for the digital signature so that it becomes common place which will then encourage further applications to be developed. German businesses participating electronically in UK Public Authority tenders, a Scottish citizen managing property in Italy, a UK entrepreneur opening a business in Slovenia all become possible thanks to a digital signature scheme recognised and accepted by the involved countries.

Description of target users and groups

This project is a bottom-up initiative whose target users are European cities and regions. The project aims to promote the usefulness of digital signatures and the applications which use them which will in turn benefit local citizens and businesses as well as the administrations deploying the technology. Our work complements national initiatives. The aim of WSPES is to assist public administrations in removing barriers and to help introduce a range of services which make use of strong authentication and digital signatures.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The SPES Cities European Economic Interest Group has been established to take this initiative forward. Progress will be shaped by the results of the eTen PPP project. This project indicated that the best way to get best practice taken up is to get all those interested collaborating on future initiatives rather than simply replicating what already exists. The structure of spes cities will reflect this need.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The basis for SPES Cities is to enable sharing and that members of SPES Cities are active throughout leading networks. Several of the SPES and WSPES applications have won eu best practice awards in their own right.

Lessons learnt

The work of this project will enable additional type of transactions to be carried out online, confident that security and privacy is being taken care of.  This  will increase the need to create a large number of uses for the digital signature so that it becomes common place, thus encouraging further applications to be developed. German businesses participating electronically in UK Public Authority tenders, a Scottish citizen managing property in Italy, a UK entrepreneur opening a business in Slovenia all become possible thanks to a digital signature scheme recognised and accepted by the involved countries.

Scope: International