SignWise is a two-year-old Estonian company that has developed an e-signature and authentication technology that aims to be at the forefront in the digital signature world. And it may very well be possible, too, as this little country just started off with the ambitious national startup project of giving e-residency to people around the globe.
Estonia boasts one of the world’s most advanced digital signature systems thanks to two crucial developments: In March 2000, the country’s parliament passed a law giving electronic signatures the same legal weight as traditional paper signatures; and secondly, the nation’s groundbreaking electronic ID infrastructure has created an effective and universal system for secure identification. More than 100 million digital signatures have been processed in Estonia since the system became available – that’s a hell of a lot of trees saved.
SignWise, which claims to be the first cross-border e-signing and authentication service in the EU, is now aiming to export the Estonian paperless society experience abroad. The company enables sharing and e-signing of documents in any format underpinned by strong user authentication. That means a person using the service has to have an electronic identity – and an ID-card or mobile-ID containing a chip with that identity. Despite the digitalised global village we live in, there remain plenty of countries where there is no such thing as an electronic identity. Take the US or Germany for example, and the list goes on.
Therefore, Estonia’s plan to offer e-residency to the whole world – 10 million e-residents by 2025, the country of 1.3 million boldly hopes – is music to SignWise’s ears. In a nutshell, it means that interested applicants can obtain a digital ID that will let them use Estonia’s digital services online around the world.
SignWise is among the companies offering these digital services. Once you’ve signed up for the SignWise portal, you’ll only need your email address for logging into the service which permits you to digitally sign documents, share them with other people, save different document formats, get legally binding e-signatures for contracts, presentations – even pictures for copyright purposes, for example.
To share them, you’ll only need to know the other party’s email address (no need for knowing all of the personal ID codes by heart) – and all this without leaving your desk or sofa. The service means one can forget about costly and time-consuming travel to get some tedious paperwork sorted out.
SignWise has priced its service similarly to many startups, offering some services for free and charging for premium ones. Private individuals or SMEs can use it to conduct 10 transactions per month free. The service also protects all subscribers against cyber fraud and stores documents safely. For bigger businesses and organisations, there’s an easy option of integrating SignWise into existing information systems or online services. The firm’s corporate client list includes the Estonian Development Fund, Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and several banks – one of Scandinavia’s biggest banks has just entered into a pilot with the service.
As for more novel ideas, the company has also developed a unique e-autograph service, which Arnold Schwarzenegger had an opportunity to test out at the recent Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki, when SignWise’s VIP digital ID card was presented to him.
SignWise currently supports the ID-cards or mobile-IDs of eight countries – Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, Portugal (from January 2015), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Azerbaijan. An EMEA-wide roll-out is scheduled for 2015. The firm hopes to be firmly in part of the new e-residency project, because one of the advantages it gives is to use Estonian digital services. This in turn, needs more than often, a digital signature.
Cover: SignWise’s VIP digital ID card presented to Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki, Finland.