Determining the barriers to the uptake of environmentally friendly technologies : the case study of electronic signatures
For centuries people have been using paper and have relied on printing documents for purposes of signing it. Despite the advent of new technologies allowing for electronic signing, the conversion to electronic signing has been met with some reluctance. People continue to use paper daily to sign documents, without taking cognisance of the effect their consumption of paper has on the environment. Considered one of the world’s most polluting industries, the pulp and paper industry is a major contributor to air, water and soil pollution. The National Waste Management Strategy not only endorses, but strongly encourages the minimisation of waste. The thought process behind the minimisation of waste, manifests itself firmly in the suggestion of electronic signatures instead of manuscript signatures. Electronic signatures and electronic documents are permitted and valid in South Africa, therefore allowing for the conversion from paper to digital without having to acquire additional devices. The definition of an electronic signature is wide and encompasses a number of concepts relevant to the technology utilised that links a person whose intention it is to sign, to the electronic document signed. Although legislation and technology is available to support electronic signatures, there are several organisations which are insistent on manuscript signatures. The research aim was to determine what the barriers are to the uptake of environmentally friendly technologies, with a specific focus on electronic signatures. The research design followed the approach of an exploratory study, which enabled the author to explore the abovementioned barriers. The research methodology utilised in the approach to gather information and conduct research, was qualitative and was aimed at gaining insight into the attitudes of senior personnel within South African companies. The author utilised an online questionnaire and interviews as mechanisms to gather information from both consumers in various companies from a wide range of industries as well as the service providers from companies offering electronic signatures solutions. In this study it has emerged that the majority of the leading barriers relating to environmentally friendly technologies are ascribed to attitude, such as the lack of awareness, uncertainty, fear, personal barriers, security concerns, loss of control, lack of trust and poor decision-making, as well as to facilitators, which refer to elements such as inadequate regulatory framework, lack of governmental support, lack of incentives, lack of skilled workers, high costs or lack of funding and lack of available information. In order to initiate a change in behaviour, awareness within society needs to be addressed in order to increase the level of knowledge. To overcome the lack of knowledge, several studies recommended that effective communication can improve the introduction and implementation of environmentally friendly technologies, whether it’s between government and the community, investors and the public or implementers and consumers. In order to create a mind-shift within society and encourage wide implementation, the amendment of certain legislation to support electronic signing as well as internal policies and encouragement from management will be necessary.