Will Digital Signatures Replace Handwritten Ones?

Technology /

The Toronto Star notes “the near-elimination of cursive from the school curriculum and a move to paperless commerce” over the past two decades. So where does that leave handwritten signatures?

Then the pandemic hit, and with it came an accelerated adoption of technology, including the electronic signature, which helped us through forcibly distant transactions. Overnight, companies like Docusign and Adobe became vital lifelines as people shifted to relying on e-signatures. Docusign, for example, went from 585,000 customers in 2020 to 1.1 million as of January 2022 and revenue over the same period grew from $974 million to $2.1 billion, according to the company’s most recent annual report. “We believe that once businesses have shifted to digital agreement processes, they will not return to manual ones,” noted Docusign.

So even as life has returned to a semblance of normal, the now near ubiquitous option to just tap an electronic device doesn’t bode well for the signature as we know it…. During the pandemic, jurisdictions round the world, including Ontario, amended legislation or relaxed rules around contract activity to mitigate the challenges social distancing posed….

Since 2006, the Ontario language curriculum lists cursive only as an option beginning in Grade 3. A plan by the Toronto Catholic District School Board in 2019 to reintroduce it as part of a pilot project was shuttered by the pandemic. And so you get stories of parents shocked to discover their child has to resort to block letters on a passport because they don’t know how to “sign” their name.
Digital signatures may be poised for even more growth. Market research firm P&S Intelligence estimates that just the U.S. digital signature market alone “stood at $921.3 million in 2021,” and “will propel at a mammoth compound annual growth rate of 31.2% in the years to come, reaching $10.6 billion by 2030.”

Of course, there’s always the question of whether or not handwritten signatures ever worked in the first place.

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