Tech Nous: Sign on the Digital Line

At recent meeting with my solicitor, I was reminded of the significance of the Electronic Transaction Act (ETA), passed in October. This Act represents giant leap of faith in the electronic medium for generating, transmitting and archiving important documents, and must go some way towards taming the paper mountain. Or will it? My solicitor wasn’t convinced.

The ETA puts electronic transactions on the same legal footing as paper-based transactions and provides for certain paper-based statutory requirements to be met electronically. However, if you’re like me, you’ll still want hard copy to store in the filing cabinet.

It seems that the ETA will encourage business though. Microsoft New Zealand managing director Ross Peat has been quoted as saying that it will help make global e-commerce transactions more seamless. “Consumer confidence, certainty and trust in terms of conducting electronic transactions are imperative, especially if New Zealand wants innovation and entrepreneurship on the internet to realise its full potential,” he said. “The positive impact on the wider business community will also be significant, as the Act will inevit-ably lead to reduced compliance costs for all businesses, and will enable new pro-cesses and business models.”

As we reflect on 2002 and look forward to another year of technological innovation it’s easy to see the impact digitalisation has on almost everything we do. Consider the seemingly lost art of handwriting for example. Computer keyboards, voice recognition programs, and handheld devices of all shapes and sizes aren’t exactly encouraging people to put pen to paper anymore.

However, Microsoft’s new Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system, could encourage you to at least put pen to digital paper. The software is expected to spawn new range of Tablet PCs or electronic notepads which allow pen- or stylus-based computing. Tablet PCs have high-resolution ‘digitiser’ under full-screen, motion-sensitive LCD display. This electromagnetic panel technology makes possible the real-time rendering of ‘digital ink’ that looks like real ink on paper, and it allows you to rest your hand on the screen while writing.

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition has the capabilities of Windows XP Professional. stylus or ‘digital pen’ is used to write directly on the screen. You then save your notes in your own handwriting or convert them to typed text for input into other software applications. The stylus has many of the functions of mouse or keyboard, however there is mouse or keyboard input if you prefer.

You can choose from two types of Tablet PC: the “convertible” with integrated keyboard, or the ultra-mobile A4-sized “pure tablet”, which has docking solutions for accessing your keyboard when seated at your desk. The convertible version’s screen can rotate and fold back on to the keyboard, creating better platform for writing and reading. Both versions come with wireless network support.

A special ‘Journal’ utility on the Windows Tablet PC edition allows you to jot down fully searchable notes and store them in your own handwriting for later editing. There is also highlighter, and the ability to annotate documents from other applications with the digital pen. So if you’re on web page, you can circle an important part, write some comments, and then email it on to colleagues. Tablet PC is also dictation machine that converts your voice into text – ideal for writers and note-takers who want to record presentation as well as write notes. Now that electronic transactions have been given the nod by legislators, there’s no reason why obtaining signature from customers or colleagues can’t be as easy as sending an email from your Tablet PC – just sign on the digital line.

Glenn Baker is editor of M-tech
Email: [email protected].

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