Electronic Forms (eForms) – What you need to know

We all know what a form is.

A document that requires the person to fill in the information in specified fields.

For a long time forms have come in a physical manner, using pen-to-paper-based methods – and are still used today.

Whether you have gone to home affairs, applied your child to a school, or opened a bank account, you have to fill in a form or forms to either start or complete the process.

Nowadays, with most of the world based online, or things needing to be done remotely – the world is shifting to a new norm – Electronic Forms or “eForms”.

Blog Post Image Electronic forms


What are electronic forms?

The same principle applies to eForms, where a user needs to fill in the information in specified fields – only now, it will be done using a web browser or software application, digitally.

eForms allow the data filled in to be captured validated and submitted for processing remotely and far more efficiently.

Benefits of electronic forms

eForms have many benefits, for the creator, the submitter, and the processor.

eForms are very simple, easy to use, and quick to submit. Allowing users the ability to reach and complete forms electronically means they can access it anywhere with an internet connection, and save time and money from printing, scanning, and mailing costs (this goes both ways).

The creator of an eForm is able to send the form to the submitter immediately, through email or IM apps, reducing time spent waiting to send and/or receive these forms, they also can have full control of the data needed for the form – making certain fields required, only allowing specific data types (numerical or text) and even setting character limits on fields.

This control over the data on eForms gives real-time feedback to the submitter if there is an error or missing information – this ensures only the correct and the completed form will be submitted for processing.

If forms are electronically received and stored, and their information is correct and complete, this saves time and money for the processor. The processor doesn’t have to waste money or space on storing large amounts of paper forms, or waste time going through all the forms to reject incomplete or incorrect forms.



What can electronic forms be used for?



With the control, the eForm creator has over the data, data types, and even the visuals of the eForms, how easy it is to send, complete, and return, and how simple it is to process without error, and the technology we have at hand – the use of eForms is virtually endless.

eForms can be used in any circumstance where data needs to be collected and processed. From something as simple as a survey to general HR and even complicated accounting tasks.

eForms are especially useful when data needs to be collected in an agile manner, requires accuracy, and when data protection is ideal.

With the development of electronic and digital signatures, and their accuracy and legality – eForms can now even be used for certain legally binding documents, saving time and money in those processes as well.

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The Legality of Digital Signatures in South Africa

Digital signatures may seem like new technology, but they have been around since the 1970s! 

Their legal status is firmly established under South African law, and digital signatures are accepted as legally binding under South Africa’s ECT Act.

The Past

The first “primitive” form of digital signatures was developed in 1977 by Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Len Adleman, who invented the RSA Algorithm. This technology was used for the first digital signatures.

With the evolution of technology in the last two decades, digital signatures have grown in popularity and developed broader applicability.

The Present

There are currently three diffe

rent levels of digital signatures recognised as valid:

  • Click-to-Sign Electronic Signatures,
  • Basic/Standard Electronic Signatures,  and
  • Advanced/Qualified Digital Signatures.

Each level comes with increasing levels of assurance and verification.

Types of electronic signatures














Click-to-sign electronic signatures

These provide almost no assurance or verification and are mainly used for basic activities like signing off on a received package from a courier service.

Basic or standard electronic signatures (SES)

An SES provides a mid-level of assurance and verification, as they incorporate cryptographic digital certification, user confirmation, and user action, with the use of an OTP, sent to the signer’s cell phone.

These signatures can be used for business purposes, like HR documents, agreements between businesses, consumer agreements, and short-term real estate documents. However, their legality is still questionable, as there is room for fraud or counterfeit.

Advanced digital signatures

Advanced Digital Signatures (also known as qualified digital signatures)  provide the highest level of legal assurance and verification.

These signatures use the same cryptographic digital certification as basic electronic signatures, but they also make use of biometric verification, assigning the signee a unique signing key, and identity verification through a qualified Certificate Authority. These all of which include an uncompromisable time-stamp for long-term certification.

Signatures of this level can generally be used for some legally binding documents, recognised in a court of law.

The Future

With the growing popularity of electronic and digital signatures, their cost, time and planet-saving capabilities, and the development of new technologies, one can be assured that digital signatures will most likely eventually become the only acceptable means of signing documents.

Technologies are being created to ensure 100% assurance and identity verification remotely. This combined with the tracking, data integrity, and storage mechanisms already in place for electronic forms and digital signatures, means that digital signatures will continue to provide more security, validity and be far more legally binding than the archaic handwritten pen-to-paper signatures we have used for so long.