E-Commerce Groups Want Digital Signatures Recognized by American Bar Association

State and local government officials, working on behalf of the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council (NECCC), today sent a letter to the American Bar Association urging the group to use its ongoing work in revising the "Model Procurement Code" to think about digital-signature issues.

The ABA is nearing the last lap of its extensive efforts to overhaul the MPC, a set of procurement principles to which many state and local governments adhere. About $750 billion in public funds is spent each year through contracts that adhere to the code, according to a revision project brief available at mpcserver.mit.edu/menu.html.

Due for completion in August, the revision is the first since the MPC was adopted in 1979. The current update was inspired by massive changes in telecommunications technology and in procurement practices.

In a letter, NECCC urged the ABA to use the revision as an opportunity to open a dialogue on definitions to the following terms: "electronic," "signature," "written" and "in writing." Specifically, NECCC is worried that the terms, as defined by the ABA, may not match those used by other e-commerce groups.

Furthermore, NECCC -- an alliance of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers; the National Association of State Information Resource Executives; and the National Association of State Purchasing Officials -- is concerned that the ABA counts too much on legislation from individual states allowing electronic signatures be used in place of traditional, handwritten signatures on binding documents.

"Reliance on individual state digital-signature laws, which are not necessarily harmonious, may hinder the promotion of interstate procurement," according to the letter.

ABA members working on the MPC overhaul aim to have a rewrite completed by the ABA's August 1999 meeting.

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