6 July 2023
Digital Signature: Huge Step Closer to Digital Egypt


Digital signature is a key catalyst for digital transformation in Egypt. The adoption of such technology ensures a smoother access to various services by companies and individuals, and improves work efficiency and the quality of digital public services. It also helps enhance government performance, keep pace with the modern world, and add to Egypt’s competitive advantages.

Signing a document digitally means saving time and effort. Among the countless benefits of digital signature are that it is easy to use in personal transactions and business. It cannot be forged or evaded, and it is highly protected, secured, and legally binding. Digital signature is a modern way of protecting privacy and confirming a signatory's identity. Individuals through this technology can update personal data and safely use them to obtain government services without the hassle of carrying around paper documents.

Several challenges have popped up since adopting digital signature in Egypt, when Law 15 of 2004 was enacted on digital signature regulation, and the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) was established, on 22 April 2004. The digital signature ecosystem has been, since then, evolving based on three main pillars: legislative reform, infrastructure development, and finally deployment, followed by introducing digital-signature-supported applications and making them accessible to citizens.

ITIDA studies and follows the technological advancements and recent global standards and best practices in digital signature and amends the executive regulations to the Law accordingly. On 23 April 2020, the Agency amended the executive regulations to enable new services: e-seal and electronic timestamp. The aim was to better serve the business sector and keep up with the advancements in digital signature. A new version of the executive regulations is about to be introduced to make new trust services available, ensuring more secure digital transactions.

To prepare the secured infrastructure of the digital signature ecosystem, the Egyptian Root Certificate Authority (Root CA) trust center was established, and services were launched in 2009. Upgrades were introduced to the trust center in July 2019. An alternative site is in progress to accommodate the expansion of digital signature to serve digital transformation projects.

In 2021, the number of companies granted digital signature activity license (Certificate Authorities, CAs) reached four, in addition to the Government Certification Authority (Gov-CA) of the Ministry of Finance. Gov-CA serves the public sector by issuing digital signature and e-seal certificates for Egyptian government employees and state agencies to facilitate mutual operations. More than 100 branches of licensed CAs, in different governorates, are now serving Egyptian citizens and business.

Over the past three years, the number of issued digital signature certificates went from nearly 8,000 by the end of 2020 to 55,000 by the end of 2021. Over 130,000 certificates were granted in 2022. The volume of transactions secured by digital signature also increased from about three million by the end of 2020 to more than 153 million by the end of 2021 and exceeded 375 million by the end of 2022.

Digital signature plays an important role in accelerating digital transformation in Egypt. It is essential for carrying out secure, legally binding electronic transactions. It has been adopted in a number of national digital transformation projects, most notably:

-    Expanding the exchange of digitally signed documents among government employees through the government correspondence system, which will be used in the New Administrative Capital as a participatory paperless government.

-    eInvoice of the Egyptian Tax Authority: The system is an important step towards fulfilling digital transformation and Egypt's Vision 2030. It achieves integration between tax systems and businesses to facilitate operations and brings the informal sector into the formal economy. The system tracks commercial transactions between companies and allows the instantaneous, digital, secure exchange of data using digital signature.

-    Egyptian Customs Authority’s Advanced Cargo Information (ACI): It is an electronic system for the pre-registration of shipment information. It requires importers to provide shipment data electronically using digital signature before the arrival of cargo shipments at Egyptian ports.

-    Electronic Litigation for Economic courts (Economic Courts) platform: It aims to deliver quicker, more transparent, and accessible justice. The Digital Courts platform ensures the integrity and validation of legal case documents through secure digital signatures. This helps accelerate justice delivery in economic courts, guarantee hassle-free digital judicial experiences, save time and effort for stakeholders, and reduce paper consumption.

-    Egyptian law enforcement system: Digital signature is now used in courts and public prosecutions, helping save time and effort and reduce paper consumption.

Unmatched by traditional paper forms, digital signatures are quickly becoming the standard for ensuring the authenticity and reliability of documents. They simplify, speed up, and legitimize business processes and provide security and legal compliance.
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