THE E-SIGNATURE IN PANAMA

The e-signature has legally existed in Panama for just over a decade, through Law 51 of July 22, 2008, which defines and regulates electronic documents, e-signatures, and the provision of technological document storage services, and certification of e- signatures. Subsequently, the aforementioned regulation was modified by Law 82 of 2012, which granted the Public Registry of Panama powers of registration authority and root certifier of e-signature for the Republic of Panama, through the National Department of E-Signature.  This is a subject that currently, under the circumstances, has gained relevance and users, in order to carry out transactions efficiently and expeditiously.

Panamanian legislation defines the e-signature as “the technical method to identify a person and indicate that this person has given his consent to the information contained in a data message or electronic document.” This method uses a set of electronic data that identifies a person, creating unalterable marks on the electronic documents that link them directly to their authors, and guarantee the integrity of their content.

The digital signature or scanned signature, which consists of the handwritten signature passed through a scanner, is excluded from the definition of e-signature, as it does not meet the corresponding requirements and is easily altered, therefore, it is not regulated in Panama.

Main uses:

  • E-government, to improve and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public management and increase the transparency of the public sector, as well as citizen participation.
  • Facilitates foreign trade.
  • Contributes to the growth of trade in the country.
  • Facilitates the legal procedures of citizens.
  • Public deeds can be registered through the telematics system of the Public Registry of Panama.
  • Allows and facilitates the use of electronic invoices.
  • Contributes in the handling of a secure electronic communication.

Classification:

  • E-signature (simple, pure or plain): technical method used to identify a person and to indicate that the person approves the information contained in a data message or electronic document. It is used within those applications and web pages that use various authentication methods, to verify the identity of the user.
  • Qualified e-signature: technological solution added to a cryptographic device (smart card or usb token), which allows giving legal value to electronic documents and transactions, whose validity is supported by a qualified electronic certificate.

Qualified Electronic Certificate:

It is the electronic certificate issued by the National Department of E-Signature or by a certification service provider duly registered with the Public Registry, which meets the requirements established by law, that:

  • Allows the signatory to be identified and any subsequent changes to the signed data to be detected.
  • Links the signatory in a unique way and to the data to which it refers.
  • Has been created through secure e-signature creation devices, which the signatory maintains under his exclusive control.
  • Provides full legal value to the qualified e-signature.

Validity of the electronic certificate

  • The qualified e-signature certificates offered by the Public Registry of Panama will have a validity period of two (2) renewable years.

Guarantees in the use of qualified e- signature

  • It involves the protection of data integrity, ensuring that the content of the message has not been altered by a third party.
  • Identifies the signatory of the document through authentication.
  • It does not allow repudiation by the authors of the message or document.

Benefits of the certified e-signature:

  • It has the same value as the handwritten signature and therefore creates legal certainty about electronic transactions and documents.
  • It guarantees to its subscribers a more expeditious handling of their transactions.
  • It generates greater transparency in public management.
  • It represents significant money and time savings.
  • Satisfies the requirement of those legal provisions that require recognition of documents or transactions under oath.
  • With respect to documents that must be notarized, such requirement may be satisfied by means of an electronic document if the qualified e-signature of the grantor is supplemented by the qualified e-signature of the officer authorized to notarize.

Due to the latest events, companies, professionals and citizens have been forced to reinvent ourselves and adapt to the Digital Age using the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and e-signatures to guarantee data security or messages exchanged.

The use of the e-signature becomes more imperative, and its implementation has made it possible to satisfy from the simplest needs such as submit a digital order to the supermarket, to more complex ones such as registering a real estate guarantee in the Public Registry of Panama, and even closing commercial transactions of great importance.

In Panama, several public entities are in a process of innovation and development, supported by the National Authority for Government Innovation (AIG), which has allowed users to enter new procedures and have easy access to responses from public institutions.  Similarly, the use of the e-signature, particularly as it can be used by public servants, natural and legal persons, has helped as a means to ensure business continuity for many companies, since it has forced us to dispense with the physical proximity to be able to carry out commercial transactions and explore other alternatives.

Based on the foregoing, we can conclude that we are at a time where it is not allowed to be left behind in order to guarantee the continuity and permanence of a business. We must be at the forefront and use the wide range of possibilities offered by ICTs and e-signatures to achieve these purposes.

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