What is an E-Signature?

An e-signature, also known as an electronic signature, is a digital representation of a signature that can be used to sign electronic documents. It is a legally binding method of signing documents and verifying the identity of the signer. The use of e-signatures has become increasingly common with the rise of digital transactions, as they offer a more convenient and efficient alternative to traditional, paper-based signatures.

E-signatures are created using various technologies such as biometrics, digital certificates, and secure signature capture devices. They can be used in a variety of contexts, including business transactions, financial services, and government services. An e-signature can be as simple as a scanned image of a traditional signature or a typed name, or it can be more complex, such as a digital signature created using encryption and secure key algorithms.

The validity and enforceability of e-signatures are regulated by laws and regulations in many countries, including the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) in the United States and the European Union's eIDAS Regulation. These laws recognize e-signatures as a secure and reliable method of signing electronic documents and transactions.

In addition to offering a secure and convenient way to sign documents, e-signatures can also help organizations reduce paper waste, increase efficiency, and improve the speed of business transactions. They also offer a level of security, as electronic signatures can be verified and authenticated, ensuring that the signer is who they claim to be and that the document has not been altered.

Simplified Example

An e-signature is like a digital fingerprint or a special mark that you make on a computer or a phone instead of writing your name with a pen on a piece of paper. Just like how you use your signature to show that you agree to something, an e-signature shows that you agree to what's written on a computer screen.

Think of it like this, if you and your friend want to play a game together and make rules, you can write down the rules on a piece of paper and both of you can sign it with a pen. This shows that you both agree to the rules. An e-signature works the same way, but instead of using a pen and paper, you use your finger or your mouse to make a special mark on the computer screen to show that you agree.

In this way, e-signatures help us to do important things like signing contracts, applying for jobs, and even ordering things online without having to send papers back and forth or meet in person.

History of the Term "E-Signature"

In the late 20th century, with the rise of cryptographic technologies and electronic documents, the necessity for a secure and dependable method for electronically signing documents became evident. Pioneers in digital signatures, including Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman, laid the groundwork for this technology in the 1970s, but its widespread adoption took time. The term "e-signature" likely emerged in the 1990s to distinguish electronic signatures from traditional handwritten ones. Organizations such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Electronic Signature and Records Association (ESRA) played crucial roles in formalizing the definition and standards for e-signatures. The legal frameworks provided by acts like the U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) in 2000 and the European Union's Electronic Signatures Directive (1999/93/EC) further solidified the legal validity of e-signatures.


Real Estate Transactions: E-signatures are widely used in real estate transactions, as they allow buyers, sellers, and real estate agents to sign and approve documents quickly and securely without having to meet in person. This can save time and make the process of buying or selling a property much more efficient.

Human Resources: E-signatures are also commonly used in human resources to sign and approve various forms and documents, such as employment contracts, benefit enrollments, and performance reviews. This helps HR departments to manage their processes more efficiently and reduce the amount of paper waste.

Government Services: Many government agencies and departments are now using e-signatures to allow citizens to sign and submit forms and applications online. This includes applications for passports, visas, and licenses, as well as tax returns and other financial documents. This not only makes the process faster and more convenient for citizens, but it also helps the government to process and manage its workload more efficiently.

  • Digital Signature: A mathematical technique used to validate the authenticity and integrity of digital messages or documents.

  • Multi-Signature: A type of digital signature that requires more than one signature to be valid.