Alternate Funding – Digital Signatures

The objective of the business plan prepared by MNP was to research, analyze and ultimately compare the three alternate funding models:
1. Digital signatures
2. Digital Permit stamp
3. Professional product fee

Starting with digital signatures, it is important to consider the reliability of documents. This is done based four main factors:

  • Origin– certifying the name and status of the signatory.
  • Integrity– allows flagging of any alterations made.
  • Authenticity– embedding the proofs of origin and integrity within the document.
  • Longevity– ensures the document will be readable and verifiable for decades.

It was suggested that if the ALSA were to implement an electronic or digital signature option, they must decide how important each of these factors are.

While examining the digital signature model it was found that there are 3 different technologies to consider:

Electronic signatures (or e-signatures) are essentially a digital image with a unique ID issued and attached at the time of signing. The simplest electronic signature does very little to embed origin, identity, longevity, or authenticity of a signatory and is also more susceptible to fraud. Digital signatures relies on a certificate authority (CA) to certify the identity of the signer. The CA is an organization that has gone through a rigorous process and has the encryption technology to become trusted in the certification role in a country or region.

Many digital signature providers have platforms that are simple to integrate into existing business systems. However, two-step verification is not possible with this type of digital signature and the professional status of the signatory can not be verified unless it is done manually at the time of request. This may be costly to administer for the ALSA based on the projected number of documents that may be authored in a year.

Digital Signatures with identity and attribute management is an enhanced version of the digital signature that can only be verified by a digital certificate that includes proof of identity and membership (with the ALSA). Although this method is effective at addressing origin, integrity, authentication, longevity, and has enhanced fraud protection, it is a more costly and onerous implementation process for members.

With any of the above options a partnership with a third party service provider will be required to manage the authentication and attributes of digital signatures. The cost to the ALSA would be minor but the financial burden to members could be significant as subscription and per document fees to the service provider would be required.

In the Canadian lands survey industry L'Ordre des Arpenteurs-Geometres du Quebec and the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors (ACLS) utilize digital signature technology. In both cases digital signatures are not mandatory but were requested by the memberships to protect the public.

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The Alberta Land Surveyors' Association (ALSA) is a self-governing professional association legislated under the Land Surveyors Act. The Association regulates the practice of land surveying for the protection of the public and administration of the profession.