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Creating the Legal Framework for Information and Communications Technology Development: The Example of E-Signature Legislation in Emerging Market Economies


  • James X. Dempsey

    (Center for Democracy and Technology 1634 I Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20006, Global Internet Policy Initiative, Washington, DC,)


This article examines the role of e-signature laws in creating the legal frame-work for e-commerce in developing and transitional countries. It argues that an early focus on electronic signature laws can be a distraction from more important reforms necessary to support e-commerce and information and communications technology development (notably telecommunications liberal-ization, support for entrepreneurship, transparency, banking reform). The article outlines an incremental legal reform strategy for emerging economies to address the issues surrounding electronic documents and e-signatures, and it recommends as an initial step legal reform that recognizes contracts entered into by businesses that have agreed by traditional means to technical standards for electronic contracts. For e-government applications, this article suggests steps governments may take to experiment with authentication systems (including possibly digital signatures). It recommends that govern-ments hesitate before setting up regulatory systems to license technologies or service providers for e-commerce. Furthermore, it identifies broader lessons for those interested in legal reforms to support growth of the Internet as a component of development, stressing the importance of basing legal reform efforts on a sensitive analysis of local needs and actual business practices. (c) 2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Information Technologies and International Development.

Suggested Citation

  • James X. Dempsey, 2003. "Creating the Legal Framework for Information and Communications Technology Development: The Example of E-Signature Legislation in Emerging Market Economies," Information Technologies and International Development, MIT Press, vol. 1(2), pages 39-52, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:itintd:v:1:y:2003:i:2:p:39-52

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