By Sue Bushell
City councils in Australia and New Zealand are cutting back on paper related expenditures to boost their green credentials and achieve cost savings.
Some councils are turning to digital signatures to expedite their approval and other business processes, reduce costs and increase security while reducing or eliminating hard copy submissions. With the issue of global warming growing in importance, they say an environmentally friendly approach is not only responsible but will positively impact on their bottom line.
"Local governments are being driven by quantifiable business process needs that can best be met by a digital signature solution such as CoSign," says Mike Eyal, Director of TME Digital Signature, a provider of electronic signature solutions. "If you take a look at the bigger picture, these councils no longer have to print, fax or courier documents just to get someone's approval on a project.
"They are not just saving paper and storage space, but they are also cutting back on power consumption and reducing dependence on carbon producing services that would typically be required to move a document urgently cross city just to get sign-off from an authorized council representative."
Following implementation of ARX's CoSign digital signature solution, councils have begun to cut back on expenses while improving their customer service. Digital signatures can expedite building approvals, for instance, while eliminating the need for hard copy plan submissions.
CoSign allows council users to replace handwritten signatures, sealing documents written in Word, Excel and PDF, with legally-binding digital signatures.
"The Burwood Council was looking for a way to enhance and streamline its processes, while cutting costs, and improving staff efficiency," says Pat Romano, Burwood Council GM.
"Prior to the installation, the Council faced a mountain of paper every day," says Ernie White, Burwood Council senior manager, information services. "Even though documents were drafted on a PC they still had to be printed so we could indicate our approval with a signature. Using CoSign, the final step has fallen away because we can electronically sign the documents within the applications used to create them."
"Switching to a paperless environment using electronic signatures will allow council staff to process, distribute and deliver correspondence direct from their desktops," Romano says.
Digital signatures ensure that the information, regardless of form, is consistently signed and verified, ensuring document security and reducing paper handling time and costs.
Townsville City Council is also using the solution. CoSign provides the council with an integrated solution that improves workflow, enhances document security and enables paperless business processes at the council and with its third party suppliers.
Using digital signatures, the council has revamped its entire approval process. "Prior to the installation, Townsville management and staff were caught up in the traditional approval process faced by many companies around the world," manager, corporate information & support says Jim Cornall said in a statement.
"Even though documents were drafted in Word they still had to be printed for signing purposes. Using CoSign we can electronically sign documents within the applications we use daily."
Cornall says the council saves on costs and time as its traditional paper-based processes fall by the wayside. Their intention is to use the desktop for all processes, distribution and delivery of correspondence and data.
Elaborating on the decision taken to install CoSign, Cornall says the TCC was attracted to the simplicity and ease of use of the appliance. "CoSign was up and running the same day it was connected to our network. This meant our staff could start signing documents right away."
"CoSign's standard electronic signatures are based on an industry standard PKI (Public Key Infrastructure), a mature and proven technology, which ensures signer authenticity, data integrity and non-repudiation of documents," says Ari Seror, Director of Professional Services, ARX.
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