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Portuguese Government takes the safe route to going digital
DigitalSign is a Portuguese company specialising in the development of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) enabled solutions. Its solutions focus on creating trust within e-commerce environments through the use of digital certificates, e-signatures, time-stamping, archive, and encryption technologies that enable organisations to safely migrate old paper-intensive processes to digitally-based systems.
When the Portuguese Government decided to introduce a new on-line based public tender process it asked DigitalSign to build PKI security into it. It wanted every communication to be electronically signed with qualified certificates compliant with European Union standards. From the announcement of the tender to the completion of contracts, it wanted a system that would ensure agreements were legally binding and repudiation-proof.
In meeting this challenge, DigitalSign needed to address legal and compliance requirements, while making sure that the process was simple for the general public to use. It also had to make sure that certificates could be issued within two days of being applied for, so that organisations submitting responses to public tenders could do so quickly and easily.
DigitalSign’s key requirement was to have a solution that enabled it to issue qualified certificates that met the Government’s policy requirements. Under Portuguese law, only qualified certificates provide the legal assurance required for this type of process and the contracts involved.
BT’s managed PKI service provided the ideal answer. The solution allows DigitalSign to act as the Local Registration Authority approving and, as necessary, revoking certificates. At the same time, BT manages the certification authority, and performs all the additional work that comes with operating a robust and efficient certification service.
The BT solution is fully scalable to meet changing needs and has enabled DigitalSign to launch its service in a fast and effective manner. The fact that BT’s process is transparent and compliant with the necessary EU Directive also meant that it was quickly able to gain the recognition it needed from the Portuguese authorities.
A first in Europe, the BT and DigitalSign partnership has proven to be highly innovative, creating a new working model in the area of electronic signatures for the Portuguese market. Qualified certificates are now being used by many organisations, including Vortal, the first Public eTendering platform in Portugal to be accredited by the government.
“The digital qualified certificate is an essential element to increasing the security and confidence in the Portuguese Public eTendering process,” comments Vortal Board member Miguel Sobral. “It was important for us to have DigitalSign and BT as partners, as their combined solution allowed us to adopt the new public eTendering process quickly.”
BT’s Managed PKI solution has made it easy for DigitalSign to meet the exacting requirements of the Portuguese Government. End users are also very satisfied with the new solution, with more than 2,000 organisations using the system since its inception. With about 10,000 public tenders issued each year, BT and DigitalSign have certainly made a significant contribution to ensuring that each one is managed smoothly and efficiently.
“To transform the very complex paper-based process for all Portuguese public tenders into a fully online and electronic system in a short period of time was a tremendous task,” explains DigitalSign CEO, Fernando Moreira. “Working with BT we were able to rise successfully to this challenge and issue the first qualified certificates in Portugal within the deadline agreed, using a system that complies with all the requirements laid down by the new Portuguese law on public contracts.”
The transparency and cost benefits achieved with this new online process are highly evident. Not only is the Portuguese Government able to respond to public tenders more quickly, the new process is saving millions of euros by rationalising and speeding up the public purchase process, enabling more competition, providing greater transparency, and allowing higher volumes per tender to be addressed by being able to aggregate several orders at one time.
With BT’s solution also being part of the VeriSign Trust Network, the issued certificates are trusted and recognised all over the world. This simplicity has meant that it has been possible to develop and deploy a solution very quickly and the integration with the subscription process has ensured very high quality of service from day one.
Such has been the success of the implementation that around 90 per cent of the organisations currently operating public tenders in Portugal via electronic platforms are using the BT/DigitalSign solution.
- BT Assure Public Key Infrastructure solution