The last hiccup to going digital – Signatures

Paper files to digital bytes continued…

It seems that one of the last hiccups to going completely digital is that pesky signature.

“A survey conducted by Adobe late last year found that while many people have embraced digital behaviours, digitally authenticating business documents is one of the remaining obstacles to the creation of a truly digital (or ‘paperless’) workplace.” Another quote State Archives and Records NSW.

The Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001 allows you to use technology to get authorisation for things so long as you meet these 3 criteria:

  • the signature identifies a person and indicates their intention (e.g. providing approval via an email)
  • the signature is appropriate (reliable) for its purpose (noting that digital signatures offer greater security than digitised signatures)
  • the person receiving the document consents to receiving a signature in electronic form.

There are exclusions as some things do need a physical pen and paper signature. Schedule 1 of the Act outlines these exclusions.

The National Archives of Australia has some really good information about evidence law in Australia, including stuff on signatures.

In most cases, whether you get a digital, electronic, wet or some other kind of signature or authorisation is up to your agency. There are all kinds of digital or electronic forms of authorisation and it depends on what you actually need.

NSW again summed it up pretty well: “Instead of identifying where ‘wet’ signatures have been used in the past and simply implementing a technology solution to provide digital signatures instead, it may be better to look at processes, determine what types of authorisation are required, and then design a digital process with the necessary level of authorisation (which may or may not include digital signatures).”

We’ve already done a blog post, a mythbuster, and provided advice on digital signatures so take a look at that if this is going to be part of your digital transition strategy.

We’ve also done a lot of work in this space to implement digital signatures here, both internally and the forms and documents you submit to us – but that’s a whole different story (coming soon).

Going digital and other stuff

A lot of recordkeeping activities apply to all types of records, including digital.  Paper records come in all shapes and sizes, and so do digital records but its formats and file sizes. And the way they’re stored is different too (obviously) but you still need to think about how they’re stored and managed and preserved.

You’re probably already doing all these things, but if you’re looking at increasing digital records and managing more records completely digitally, it’s a good time to check on these things.

We’re so used to having technology around and it’s so easy sometimes we forget just how complicated it can be to make sure they stay usable, findable and accessible. You not only have to think about what formats to use (do I use open, open proprietary, or closed formats?), but how they’re stored (is online or offline mode better?) and where they’re stored (hmm, solid state is becoming more common…). So many things to think about.

And then there is updating software and hardware to make sure they stay usable and accessible, migrating records from one software or hardware to another, and decommissioning systems! But not all things digital recordkeeping is virtual. You also need to consider how and where digital media is kept – those same environmental conditions and criteria for physical records applies to storing digital media and data centres too.

We’ve got plenty of advice on the website about ways of storing and preserving digital records, formats, storage devices and media, and all things in between. Here’s where you can find it all:

Around the web / acknowledgements

We didn’t re-invent the wheel on this one and pulled together information from other recordkeeping friends around the country and a few things we’ve published before.

Here’s where we got our info from. If you’re transitioning to digital you should really check these out – some great information in there.

There is also heaps of other advice out there to help you transition to more digital processes and recordkeeping in your agency to so do some digging on google (or your chosen search engine).

Case studies

The National Archives of Australia has 4 case studies available on their website all about digital transition.

Now we can’t let NAA have all the fun – have you already transitioned to digital? In progress? We know you’re out there… Feel like sharing some stories with your fellow record-keepers? If you answer yes to any of these questions, let us know! Or post it on CORIM the forum so others can benefit from your wisdom and ask questions.

More information

Need more help? Send us an email ( with the details of what you need more advice on and we’ll do what we can to help.

Remember, you can contact us at any time via email, telephone, blog or Twitter.


Featured image: Merge of Deck crane erecting north and south halves of suspended span, Brisbane, 3 October 1939 Digital ID 4012 and Brisbane Central Business District in Australia 123rf Image ID 69240015

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