E-signatures tune up Sofia_echo - 2003/11/14
Bulgarian-language media widely reported the "original" way that Finance Minister Milen Velchev chose to submit the draft budget 2004 to Parliament for discussion. He did this via the internet, using an electronic signature.

E-signature, it seems, is still seen as state of the art futurism in Bulgaria, despite the fact that from a legal point of view, issues related to e-signature have been regulated in the law on electronic document and electronic signature, effective as of October 2001.

How has the use of electronic documents and electronic signatures advanced into public life, two years since, was the question discussed at a forum held on November 6 in Sofia, organised by the Centre for the Study of Democracy and the Applied Research and Communications Fund.

There are only two e-signature providers registered in Bulgaria.

The Information Service Plc was registered in March 2003. The state, represented by the Ministry of Finance, is the majority shareholder in the company. The trade mark of the certificates issued by the company is of the name "StampIt."

The other e-signature provider is Bankservice. It was registered in September 2003 as a joint-stock company of the Bulgarian National Bank and the commercial banks in the country. The trade mark of Bankservice certificates has been named "B-Trust."

A digital signature and a reading device for the smart card bearing the signature costs between 150 and 400 leva depending on the package of additional services, such as time stamp, indicating the date and exact hour of e-signing as a guarantee that the e-signature certificate is valid; hourly messages including a list of revoked certificates, a check in real time as to the validity of the certificate, etc.

Information Services Plc reported a major breakthrough in managing electronic communications related to processing the results of the municipal elections held in October. For the first time in Bulgaria, elections returns were processed and communicated in electronic form by using universal electronic signatures. This was done on an experimental basis, parallel to the paper-based processing of the results.

Yet another breakthrough in the e-signature application has been reported by the Ministry of Finance. All correspondence between the ministry and the Central Bank is done through e-mails and e-signatures, the sums thus circulated stand at approximately half a billion leva per year, said Ivan Sariev, Director of Information Technologies Directory of the Ministry of Finance.

E-procurement for deals below 20 000 leva will also be launched soon, Sariev said. This will reduce corruption and will accumulate up to 300 000 leva turnover through the site.

At the start of October, State Administration Minister Dimitar Kalchev announced the launching of the e-government. He also announced the first services to be provided on the internet - changes of address registration, information on the court registration of Bulgarian companies, and information on social security contributions.

The latter together with the electronic registering of labour contracts have been gaining speed as reported by the National Social Insurance Institute. The service is active 24/7 and statistics shows that the majority of insurers to have used the e-service are small-size companies.

Under the law on electronic signature, the Cabinet is to work out a regulation and fix the state administration bodies, which would not be able to refuse to introduce e-signatures in their work. This is expected to become effective as of January 1, 2004.

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