Digital signature: Use and modification to achieve success in next generational e-business processes

Alok Gupta, Y. Alex Tung, James R. Marsden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


A US law, the electronic signatures (E-Sign) in Global and National Commerce Act (signed by then President Clinton on 30 June 2000 with an effective date of 1 October 2000), grants electronic signatures legal validity equivalent to traditional hand-written counterparts. The intention of this law is to cut costs while providing more stringent security. In the emerging e-commerce arena, electronic signatures hold great potential for facilitating secure electronic transactions. But signatures are used in many critical business processes that occur prior to or independent of final transactions. Contract development and numerous other processes entail a series of draft modifications and sign-offs. Can electronic signatures provide cost savings and security in these activities? In this paper, we (i) detail fundamentals and the current status of electronic signatures; (ii) describe the integration of electronic signatures with electronic verification and authentication technologies; (iii) explore e-commerce applications, especially document management processes, that could benefit from adopting electronic signatures; and (iv) propose modifications to the electronic signature process to enable innovative document management processes. We propose modifications using partial document ownership, soft signatures, and hard signatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-575
Number of pages15
JournalInformation and Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
James R. Marsden came to UCONN in 1993 as professor and head, Department of Operations and Information Management, School of Business Administration, University of Connecticut. Dr. Marsden was part of a three-person concept development team that initiated and oversaw the development of the Connecticut Information Technology Institute and is currently serving as its executive director. He developed and implemented the Treibick Electronic Commerce Initiative that is funded through a generous gift provided by Richard Treibick and the Treibick Family Foundation. He was a member of the edgelab development team and currently serves on the edgelab Steering Committee which selects and resources projects and oversees operations. Dr. Marsden is a two-time winner of the Chancellor’s Award for IT Excellence and a co-winner of the Team Connecticut Program Award from the Office of Economic Development. He has a lengthy research publication record in market innovation and analyses, economics of information, artificial intelligence, and production theory. His research work has appeared in Management Science, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Theory, Journal of Political Economy, Computer Integrated Manufacturing Systems, Decision Support Systems, Journal of Management Information Systems, and numerous other academic journals. Professor Marsden received his AB from the University of Illinois and his MS and PhD from Purdue University. Having completed his JD while at the University of Kentucky, Jim has been admitted to both the Kentucky and Connecticut Bar.

Funding Information:
The concepts and ideas in this paper have been developed over the past 2 years in an attempt to adopt the leading edge technologies for everyday business processes. The authors have interacted with several high level and operational managers and digital signature software providers. The operational managers helped in shaping and refining the vision of an ideal system and helped identify the shortcomings/limitations of current technology. We are also grateful to the students at UCONN’s edgelab who went in uncharted waters studying and using cutting edge technology (RSA’s web passport) as it was being released for beta testing. We are also thankful to the GE Capital managers at edgelab for their feedback and for helping and arranging the necessary contacts and tools for this project. This work was partially supported by funding from the Treibick Electronic Commerce Initiative, Department of Operations and Information Management, School of Business, University of Connecticut.


  • Biometrics technologies
  • Computer security
  • Computer verification and authentication
  • Digital signature
  • E-commerce
  • Electronic signature
  • Negotiation support


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