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analog to digital document

Digital Timestamp: manage the transition from analog to digital documents

The transition from analog to digital document is underway at all levels. In this transition phase, tools such as digital timestamps are more valuable than ever before. 

Digitalization and dematerialization are two key concepts that have been at the center of the process of making the processes of document archiving and invoicing more efficient, modern, and more in touch with users via Customer Care and Customer Communication. 

Looking specifically at the Public Administration sector, an important date to keep in mind is March 7, 2005, which is when Legislative Decree no. 82 was passed. This decree, which came into force the following year, sanctioned the birth of the so-called Digital Administration Code (CAD).

The entry into force of the CAD is the first stage in a process that will lead to the abandonment of paper and a complete conversion to digital and dematerialized documents, and all of the associated cost and efficiency benefits that this process entails.

We have focused extensively on the advantages of digital dematerialized documents over traditional analog documents in this post.

This turning point, together with its enormous opportunities, also brings with it some important challenges. Above all, it is a question of being able to best manage the transition period in which digital and paper must coexist in the processes of archiving and dialog within the Public Administration. 

Tools such as so-called digital timestamps are designed precisely to address this phase of transition.

Before we tackle this topic, it’s important to understand the general framework within which this tool fits.

 

Dematerialization and digitalization are not synonymous

Digitization and dematerialization are two different concepts and these differences have an important legal impact on both businesses and individuals.

Digitization is a broad and less stringent concept: it refers to the computerization of processes and services available to companies, the Public Administration, employees, and individuals.

Dematerialization, on the other hand, is a concept that goes further. Only through correct dematerialization, in fact, can a digital document replace its paper counterpart at legal and evidentiary levels.

However, it is important to underline here that, in this field, it is essential to rely on specialized companies such as Doxee, which for more than 10 years is among the leaders in this field, with both expertise and a history of collaboration at the highest levels in both in the public and private sectors.

Only professional organizations of this kind can protect companies against the risk of serious procedural errors (which are a constant reality, also because the relevant regulations are constantly evolving) and, at the same time, ensure the highest degree of security.

In addition, collaboration with specialized companies allows organizations to better seize the vast opportunities that dematerialization offers. Not only will dematerialization save time, money, and improve efficiency, it also offers companies the opportunity to improve their analysis tools (including through the interpretation of big data, smart data, deep data) and customer communication.

Such opportunities multiply with the advancement of the technologies at our disposal.

 

The Italian digital public administration: there is still a long way to go

Since its entry into force in 2006, the Digital Administrative Code has been updated 29 times, the most recent and significant is the Legislative Decree of December 13, 2017, no. 217 (you can read the full text here).

While this indicates that the process of complete digitalization in Italy has begun and that it is at the center of the legislative agenda, the process hasn’t been a smooth one. In short, there is a lot of work to do. Many of the problems can be attributed to general issues, including the degree of digitalization of the Italian economic, administrative, and social ecosystem.

According to a DESI report on the state of digitization from May 2018, Italy lags behind other European countries, where it is in fourth to last place, ahead only of Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania, and far from countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany (source).

This picture is confirmed by the recent report by Anitec-Assinform. In 2017, the digital market in Italy grew by 2.3%. This is good news: growth has also been stable in 2018. Unfortunately, this is still far from European standards.

So, there is still a long way to go. And the gap to be filled is very wide.

But the direction that the country is headed is the right one. It’s up to the legislature, but also industry, to act even more decisively.

For example, the decision to introduce mandatory electronic invoicing outside the public sector was a decisive one that accelerates the process (read our post summarizing the latest updates on electronic invoicing in 2019): in just six months, in 2019, nearly a billion pieces of data were transmitted to the tax authorities (source).

In a nutshell: the future is coming. You have to be ready.

In the meantime, it’s important to be able to manage the current situation. And in document management, the present is one of mixed management: for the moment, both paper and digital documents coexist.

In order to reap the best benefits from this coexistence, effective tools such as digital timestamps are therefore indispensable.

 

What is Digital Timestamp?

At a technical level, digital timestamp is a sequence of bits associated with an analog document, a part of it, or a copy of it, and its identification data.

The guidelines for electronic tagging are set out in the newsletter issued by the Digital Agency for Italy n. 62/2013, published in the Official Gazette n. 138 of June 14, 2013 (see here for the full text): this document defines the specifications for generation, affixing, and verification.

Leaving technicalities behind, this tool allows for the verification of the analog and digital versions of documents. It’s like having a digital “identity card” for resources that, for now, are still paper-based, and makes it possible to identify them in a unique way. 

As we mentioned above, this is fundamental for the transitional phase between the “paper past” and the digital future, a phase that Italy currently finds itself in.

There are three different scenarios for the use of electronic tagging:

  1. Marks or tags that contain the data of the original document;
  2. Marks or tags that contain the data of an extract or a copy of the original document;
  3. Marks or tags that contain the data of a document not stored by the administration.

Apart from differences in type, all digital timestamps must have these characteristics:

  1. Printing options: the format chosen for the creation of the electronic mark must be able to guarantee, at all times and under all circumstances, the printing of the document itself using commercially available printers.
  2. Verifiability: the format chosen must allow the verification of the document using consumer technologies.
  3. Transparency on technical specifications: the technical specifications used by the administration to generate, affix, and verify the electronic mark must be issued. This is a commitment on the part of the developer.
  4. Software verification: the developer must always make available the software used to perform the verification of correspondence on its website.
  5. Compliance with the law: finally, the hardware and software for the production of the electronic mark must comply with the principles established by the law of January 9, 2004, n. 4 and by the Ministerial Decree of July 8, 2005 (here is the full text).

These specifications emphasize the importance of partnering with specialized companies who have solid expertise in the field, who are up to date with the most current regulations, and who have an advanced approach to the issues of both B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Customer).

Doxee’s Paperless Experience solutions have been adopted by leading companies like Fastweb but also by many public administrations throughout Italy.

 

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