Introduction of qualified electronic signature and qualified trust service providers in Georgia

Starting from 1 January 2019, companies and organizations that are engaged in business deals with administrative bodies of Georgia are obliged to conduct such affairs via electronic documents signed by qualified electronic signature or qualified electronic stamp through electronic means of communication. As of now, this rule applies to public procurements.

In general, the qualified electronic signature has the following advantages: (i) an ability to uniquely identify and link its signatory to the electronic signature; (ii) allows the signatory to have sole control of the keys used to create the electronic signature; (iii) identifies if the data has been tampered with after its accompanying message has been signed; and (iv) invalidates the signature if signed data has been altered in any manner.

The aim of establishment and development of qualified electronic signature and stamp is to ensure high standard of document protection. In particular, based on the amendments made to the laws of Georgia, qualified electronic signatures and stamps increase the degree of trust and protection of the respective documents. Moreover, the users will be able to save time and distance and execute or sign any document and agreement from any location.

Development of electronic signature significantly reduces the usage of paper and increases the protection. One of the advantages of electronic document is the fact that it is impossible to forge such document and they are protected from any kind of manipulation.

By using electronic documents, users as well as the governmental entities are able to reduce the administrative costs. Another impact of electronic documents is the increased environmental protection.

Procedure

In order to create electronic stamp, structural units of LEPL Public Service Development Agency (“SDA”) and Public Service Halls issue a specially designated cards.

As regards to activating qualified electronic signature, such signing method can only be used by citizens holding ID cards of Georgia (including Georgian residence card). The qualified electronic signature requires from a citizen to have PIN code of ID card. Such PIN code can always be obtained in Public Service Halls or structural units of SDA. In case when a citizen of another state holding Georgian residence card has renewed such card more than 2.5 years ago, such residence card shall be renewed again.

It should be highlighted that by establishment of electronic signature, Georgia will most likely improve its position in world rankings of electronic governance (e.g. in survey of electronic governance of 2016 Georgia ranked 61 out of 193 countries). Moreover, this will bring more recognition to Georgia as having technology-friendly services. It is likely that the latter will attract more investments in Georgia that is a guarantee for stimulation of economic development of the country.

Qualified Trust Service Providers

Qualified trust service providers are persons and/or entities that provide and preserve digital software to create and validate electronic signatures and to authenticate their signatories. The qualified trust service providers have the responsibility to assure integrity of electronic identification for signatories and services through strong mechanism for authentication of electronic signatures. In many countries the qualified trust service providers are private commercial entities who sell the relevant software to the companies wishing to operate their business via qualified electronic signatures and stamps.

Before 1 July 2018, SDA was the sole body entitled to serve as a qualified trust service provider in Georgia that carried out such services via www.sda.gov.ge which entitles the users to exchange the electronic documents online.  Therefore, authority to provide qualified trust services was vested in the government authorities of Georgia. However, as of 1 July 2018, pursuant to Law of Georgia on Electronic Documents and Electronic Trust Services, a physical or legal person that wishes to become a provider of qualified trust service shall undergo authorization process at LEPL Data Exchange Agency of Ministry of Justice of Georgia. Such person/company shall meet the technical standards in order to become a trust service provider. Such requirements, along with technical and technological specifications, encompass strong financial standing and obtainment of civil liabilities insurance in the amount of at least GEL500,000. Authorization of qualified trust service providers is issued for 2 years.

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