Yes, COVID has disturbed the economic cloth of the world, but it has also pushed us harder in the direction of digitization.
The changes it has made in the lifestyle of people across the world are radical and all-pervasive. Right from our daily routine, buying behavior, work-life, everything has changed to a great extent. And all these changes have one common factor: The use of online and digital platforms. Governments allowing digital document signing and companies developing affordable and user-friendly signature solutions are the result of these changes.
The pandemic's contributions are undeniable. Virtual meetings, online shopping (which has been done for years now, but the frequency and width have increased), online education, more consumption of OTT content, etc are becoming new normals.
Shifting our focus to the business world, the impact is disruptive.
Right from the finance sector, AEC to F&B, digitization is transforming the business operations. Pre-COVID, many businesses across the sectors were struggling to wrap their mind around the concept of integrating advanced technologies like AI or automation of business. But this pandemic has cleared the mist and the businesses do not have any other option but to adopt technological advancement to sustain the pandemic and grow in the future. Humans are scared of changes, and we postpone or ignore them as much as we can until we reach the point where we have no other option but to change.
The financial sector and Banks have been one of the early adopters of digital transformation. Be it facilitating money transfer in real-time, ATMs, mobile payments, online banking services like account opening or loan applications, and more, the banking sector has been showcasing its flexible working approach. How can we forget the acceptance of an e-signature solution by banks?
The eCommerce sector, gaming industry, blockchain, and entertainment industry all are trying to leverage the technology in ways they can afford. COVID-19 has forced these and many other industries to go beyond their comfort and adapt. And these businesses do not mind this obligation as they know the future lies in digital.
Right now, the focus is settled on the automation and digitization to support human efforts and minimize unwanted time gaps and human contacts.
COVID-19 Fuels Electronic Use and Acceptance of Digital Solutions In The Following Ways:
Ability to Work From Home
Increasing numbers of freelancers in the one world economy were pushing many businesses to outsource their work to outside professionals. But the push was not that hard. Companies were still comfortable in working with in-house staff. COVID-19 hit the economy and gradually every business had to make the arrangements where their staff could work from home, remotely. As per the survey by Workhuman, only a third of people in the United States used to work from home before the pandemic. Now, big IT giants, like Facebook, IBM, Twitter are encouraging their employees to operate from home. Companies like Google and JP Morgan are developing remote working policies in case they have to shift permanently to work from home culture.
Digital Transformation Will Involve Automation With Machine Learning
Not every business or organization can afford work from home culture right away. It requires technological infrastructure and reformation of policies. Organizations such as health and fitness set up, delivery setups, etc can not completely shift to contactless business operations. But this pandemic is a test for such organizations to help them realize the factors they will have to consider if they wish to go completely digital in the near future & the changes they have to make. Smart businesses must have already started the R&D activities on this in order to come up with sustainable work policies and a futuristic business structure.
The future of digital transformation is not limited to software and online platforms though. The future is going to be smart and automated. The process has started, and the e-commerce and automobile sector is showcasing good growth. Be it the usage of drones, manufacturing of driverless cars, or building robots to serve people in the hospitality industry, a few of the businesses are walking shoulder to shoulder with their future, or maybe they are building the future.
Just like other businesses, the education sector is losing its old skin too. Due to COVID-19, schools and universities have turned their face to virtual learning methods. Many schools and universities are holding online classrooms and making arrangements for online exams too. Earlier, online courses were mostly available for remote students as a distance learning option, but now even local students have to learn through online platforms for their regular degree courses.
Events Going Virtual
One of the first public events or conferences that got canceled due to this pandemic was the Mobile World Congress, a gathering of electronic makers that takes place once in a year. Google Cloud Next ’20, a three-day conference was held on-air and was free of cost. One more such conference was Collison, which became Collison from Home and held virtually.
The conference industry has got new wings during this pandemic. The use of the Zoom app, an online meeting app has grown dramatically during the pandemic. Despite the news related to the security features of the app, Zoom has crossed 300 million daily meeting participants.
What is helping businesses to roll out work from home plans with as much efficiency and ease as possible? The answer is cloud meeting and team management tools. To attract businesses, team management tools like G Suit by Google are providing free access to premium features (for which users have to pay otherwise); Microsoft has offered a six-month free trial to Microsoft Teams to help schools, businesses and other organizations like hospitals to continue operating (In China).
Cisco is upgrading the Webex tool to efficiently support businesses during the pandemic. It is serving 44 countries with the tool.
Now, let us focus on the impact of COVID-19 in the acceptance of Digital Signature Solutions.
While everything is getting digital, how can we forget the one most important part of every official procedure? This part has to be performed accurately and carefully in order to authorize every decision or action! We are talking about signatures! Pandemic is forcing every institution and individual to lead a contactless life. In such a situation, using a paper, signing it with wet ink, transferring the paper to another person where he/she will handle it manually and transfer to the next person, does not make sense!
Here, people are suggested to use any reliable app for signing documents. An individual user can avail of any trustworthy free electronic signature app or if you are a business, you can deploy a complete digital signature solution in the organization. This solution can be availed through smart devices like mobiles or tablets.
There are companies that provide a smart agreement platform where users are allowed to request to sign, or reject contracts, amend the terms and track the contract workflow. A biometric signature is one more advanced solution.
Electronic signatures are useful in both online and offline agreements such as performing an internet transaction or entering into a contract via email or signing physical paper documents.
In case, you are wondering about the usage of the digital signature solutions, here are a few rules you need to follow.
Electronic Signature Laws
There are a few countries in the world that have given digital signatures equal acceptance and value as the hand-written, wet-ink signature, the US is one of such countries. The U.S. governs the legal effect of electronic signatures through two laws:
- The state Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (“UETA”)
- Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (“E-SIGN”).
Companies should know the law of the land where they are deploying the digital signature tool. Online Signature Pricing has to be considered too.
E-signatures have been in the market way before this pandemic, however, after the pandemic, many US states and counties in the world are making arrangements for remote notarization. However, remote notarizations demand signers be available through some type of video conference. For example, it is important for the notary to witness the esignature being done via video conference.
There is a lot to be done in terms of digitization and esignature. Governments and businesses across the world are finding their ways around this need. However, COVID-19 has most certainly accelerated the process. Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has declared that it is open to accept specific documents with electronic signatures in certain circumstances. Small steps like this will surely take the world where it needs to be.
Businesses that are trying to deploy digital signature solutions, have to make sure the service provider is reliable. The solution is sustainable, easy to use, and understand, and most of all, it is deployed at the right time in the right way to extract the most out of it.