Electronic Contract Signing Gateway (EC-SignGate)
- a system to support web-based applications using digital signatures
The use of digital signatures eliminates the requirement of written signatures and the handling of paper forms, and thus increases the productivity of the parties involved from a user submitting a web-based form to the completion of its processing.

The following applications using HKU-Cert, the digital certificates issued by the HKU Certification Authority, have been put into service in 2000 as the first batch of ESD applications in the HKU Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) System:

Users will find more occasions for using their digital signatures.  While Computer Centre is promoting the use of digital signatures in the University, the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS) is developing a web-based application for automated computer account creation for her students.  This is done by a CSIS web server which obtains the authentication of her students' digital signatures via an Electronic Contract Signing Gateway (EC-SignGate) service provided by Computer Centre . Since the students are authenticated, there is no need to manually check the students' identities and a computer program will create the accounts for the students automatically and instantaneously, resulting in productivity gain for all parties.

The EC-SignGate service makes it easy for a department to develop digital signature applications, without the need to implement or install public key infrastructure (PKI) solutions on the department's web server.

What is EC-SignGate
The reason why digital signatures are not yet popular in today's world is that an organization or department must install the public key infrastructure (PKI) before its web server can run web-based applications which support digital signatures (Figure 1). It is not a trivial task to install the PKI to support digital signatures and their verification.
Figure 1: departmental web server needs to implement PKI to support digital signature 
With the establishment of EC-SignGate at Computer Centre , other departments can now run web-based applications using digital signatures more easily (Figure 2).
Figure 2: departmental web server does not implement PKI, 
and use EC-SignGate to support digital signature 
The steps of completing a transaction are:
    1. The department's web-based application accepts the user's input from the user's browser.
    2. The department's application prepares an e-contract (a textual web page) to be signed by the user, and forwards it to EC-SignGate.
    3. EC-SignGate presents the e-contract with the digital signing facilities to the user's browser for the user to sign.
    4. The user signs the e-contract with his HKU-Cert private key and submits it.
    5. EC-SignGate verifies the digital signature of the e-contract and sends the verification result to the department's application.
    6. Based on the verification result, the department's application sends the final acknowledgment, either positive or negative, to the user.
A simple calling convention is employed between the department's application and the EC-SignGate service. If any department is interested in using digital signatures and EC-SignGate to facilitate their department's ESD applications, please contact the undersigned.
An example application using the service of EC-SignGate
The web-based application being developed by the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS) runs like this:
  1. A student accesses the web-based application homepage. (click to see image)
  2. The student continues to read more information about the application. (click to see image)
  3. The student sees the e-contract provided by CSIS, with the signing support by the EC-SignGate service provided by Computer Centre . (click to see image)
  4. The student signs by putting his HKU Smart Card or HKU-Cert CD-R containing his private key in place, and then typing his private-key password in a pop-up window. (click to see image)
  5. The student sees the final acknowledgement page by CSIS. (click to see image)
M. C. Pong
Tel: 2859 2491
E-mail: pmc@cc.hku.hk

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