ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE REMAINS A HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
A year has already passed since the Electronic Document and Electronic Signature Act was passed on October 7, 2001. Despite the official ceremony, organized for the launching of e-trade in Bulgaria, the Communications Regulation Committee has not yet issued even one cipher certificate on the territory of the country.In fact, there is only one company applying for a licence - Information Service AD. The BANKER weekly learnt, however, that the committee will send back its documents for the second time because they need to be corrected. Before submitting the necessary documents, the applicant for the national network is obliged to make considerable investments amounting to some EUR250,000. This is what the law and its three regulations stipulate. The amount includes money for acquisition of software and smart cards, for building an information preservation centre, etc.Information Service is the only company that meets all the requirements. Yet in August 2001, representatives of the company signed agreements with leading European companies that provide electronic certificate services - Utimaco Software and GlobalSign, which is the official certificate publisher of the European Commission. The agreements are worth EUR1MN, meant for the building of a national system for certifying individuals and companies. Initially, the company will provide electronic processing of VAT declarations, cipher customs seals, and access to various national registers on the INTERNET.In the meantime, the other companies willing to be licensed keep waiting. BANKSERVICE which announced its ambitions a few months ago is still delaying its offer. We intend to submit our documents in November and to start offering services in early 2003. However, this is a new business for us and it took us more time to prepare our application, explained Lyubomir Tsekov, Executive Director of the interbank settlement operator. According to sources familiar with the company, BANKSERVICE will provide electronic signatures only to banks and bank information systems, and will not occupy with other segments of the market.The Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), which laid claims for a national licence last year too, later changed its policy and registered the launching of electronic signatures within the organisation itself. Undoubtfully, the construction of internal company certification network is much faster, cheaper and easier.It doesn't need a special licence, neither does it need preliminary investments of several hundred euro. That's why the institutions prefer internal department networks. Beside the BIA, there are several other candidates - United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), Shell Bulgaria, McDonald's, and the local Metro chain of hypermarkets.The introduction of electronic signature in the state administration is accompanied by a number of bureaucratic requirements. The provisions of the special law oblige every department to stipulate special regulations on how the electronic signature should be used. The juridical system will face an even bigger problem - the introduction of the e-signature in it should be regulated by a specific document. While magistrates are waiting, the state administration keeps delaying the electronic boom it promised last autumn. There are no suitable conditions for it in the ministries and state agencies. And clerk officers are those in the greatest need of e-signatures. They will not only facilitate its activity, but will also provide a level of service similar to that in Europe.There are also a number of questions about the future of the technological branch, which is otherwise among the priorities of the Government. Another priority is the so called electronic government for which the state budget has already spent a lot of money. This may be the reason why the experts of the Communications Regulation Committee are already considering the establishment of a national organisation which would introduce the new services in the administration. The only question is whether this will be the newly-created Agency for Development of Information and Communication Technologies, the Information Society Coordination Council, or another of the bodies supported by the Treasury.