The use of the electronic stamp in the Public Administration

What is an electronic stamp and how does it help make life easier for companies that work continuously with governments and public entities? Next, we immerse ourselves in this very useful tool for the vast majority of companies, regardless of the sector, telling you about the existing types, their advantages and how to take advantage of it with some of our tools.

We must recognize that going to an office of any public institution to solve a procedure or simply depositing an application, claim or any other procedure in the register is desperate, in addition to entailing a considerable loss of hours that could be invested in more productive tasks.

Luckily, the new options presented by this increasingly digital society help us to make these experiences more and more matters of the past. This is where electronic signature and authentication procedures come into play. Among them, the so-called electronic stamp is essential for the Public Administration. What is this and what can it do for us? We treat it in this article.

The digital transformation in Public Administration

The electronic stamp is part of the public sector digitalization process that results in the one known as Electronic Administration or e-Administration.

To locate ourselves in the context, we will have to take a look at the current situation of digital transformation in Spanish public institutions. For this, the Economy and Digital Society Index (DESI) 2019 will be very useful.

As regards electronic administration in this report, Spain is in a very good fourth position among the member countries of the European Union, with a rise of 4.7 points compared to the 2018 report.

It should be noted that the percentage of users of the electronic administration increases from 67% to 76% and that we are in second place in terms of open data. In addition, it should be noted that 76% of Spanish Internet users actively participate with the Electronic Administration services.

What is the electronic stamp?

To begin, the most convenient will be to resort to the definition of the electronic stamp and, for that, nothing better than to go to the legislative framework that contemplates it, consisting of:

  • EU Regulation No. 910/2014 regarding electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market, eIDAS.
  • Law 39/2015 of October 1 of the Common Administrative Procedure of Public Administrations of electronic access of citizens to Public Services.

According to these normative references, 3 categories of electronic stamp are defined:

  • Electronic stamp: data in electronic format linked to other data in electronic format, or logically associated with them, which verify their origin and integrity.
  • Advanced electronic stamp: this must meet the following requirements:
    • Be linked to the sealant in a unique way.
    • Allow sealant identification.
    • Have been created using electronic stamp creation data that the sealant can use to create an electronic stamp, with a high level of trust, under its control.
    • Be linked to the data referred to in such a way that any subsequent modification of this data is recognizable.
  • Recognized or qualified electronic stamp: it meets the same requirements as the advanced electronic stamp, but it is also created by means of a qualified electronic stamp creation device and based on a qualified electronic stamp certificate. It is very similar to the previous company certificate.

As we can see, the definitions of the different types of electronic stamp closely resemble those of the electronic signature, with the difference that the electronic stamp allows legal persons and companies to authenticate a procedure carried out in the Administration automatically.

We can say that the electronic stamp is the digital brother of the stamp that was stamped on each document that we presented in an office of the Public Administration every time we had to perform any management on it.

Usuaria firma utilizando el sello de tiempo

Electronic stamp is not the same as time stamp

We consider it important to highlight that the electronic stamp and the time stamp are two concepts that must be distinguished.

By time stamp or timestamping we understand the electronic mechanism that is responsible for ensuring that an electronic signature exists from a certain moment and has not been altered after its completion. Therefore, it acts as proof of the integrity of said firm.

Technically speaking, the Public Key Infrastructure or PKI is used for time stamping. The format in which the signature is returned is called XAdES-T.

For the translation of these time stamps, the intervention of what was called until the arrival of eIDAS, a Time Stamping Authority or TSA, and now a Time Stamp Service Provider is required, which, as in the case of the electronic stamp, can be advanced or qualified.

We will abound in the interesting features of the time stamp in other articles, but it is important that the distinction with the electronic stamp be clear.

The electronic stamp certificate

Qualified electronic stamps require the use of their own certificates in order to apply. According to Law 40/2015 the FNMT-RCM, three types of certificates are recognized in the field of public institutions:

  • Certificate of electronic signature of the personnel at the service of the Public Administration or Certificate of public employee.
  • Certificate of electronic center of operations in the field of Administration: they serve to identify a web portal.
  • Electronic stamp certificate in the field of Administration.

This electronic stamp certificate has, in addition to the electronic stamp itself, other applications, such as:

  • Authentication of computer components of an entity to access services or infrastructures that require identification.
  • Exchange of encrypted information with total security guarantees.
  • Signature of electronic invoices.

Benefits of the electronic stamp

With the arrival of the electronic stamp, the procedures of companies and institutions with the Administrations have been greatly expedited. For example, it is no longer necessary to lose an entire morning of work to go to a certain public office to deliver some documents, or perform any other operation.

The benefits of the electronic stamp go beyond the use in electronic administration, as it can be used in any commercial or internal document that must be stamped by the company: budgets, invoices, payroll, etc.

Nor should we disregard the extra security provided by these authentication methods, so that the risk of fraud is reduced.

All this ends up crystallizing in a greater efficiency of business tasks, reducing spending and optimizing productivity due to the greater investment of hours in tasks that really add value to the company and not in tedious bureaucratic procedures.

Personal firma utilizando el sello de tiempo

All Viafirma solutions take advantage of the electronic stamp, especially in the so-called unattended signature. The unattended signature has a huge number of applications: online sales in which the purchase documents are automatically, securely and reliably stamped by the supplier, an act of delivery of merchandise in which the document that is delivered for signature by the customer incorporates the electronic stamp of the company, the mass sending of payroll to employees with the stamp of the company, etc.

In Viafirma Documents an electronic stamp can be incorporated in any document, personalizing the signature policies; In Viafirma Inbox an electronic stamp can be included at any point in a signature flow; In Viafirma Fortress, our digital identity management and centralized signature solution, the unattended use of the electronic stamp is possible through API, thus automating mechanical and repetitive stamping processes.

Concluding, we can say that the electronic stamp has meant a sensible change in the way of relating that private companies and government entities have, thus completing a further stage in that race towards electronic administration in which Spain is so well positioned.