For those of a slightly cynical bent, the phrase, “give me convenience or give me death” could be seen as the rallying cry of the contemporary consumer. 

There can also be no doubt that companies old and new have gone out of their way to meet that desire for convenience. It’s never been easier to watch new movies, have food delivered to your door, or conduct complex financial transactions.

There is, however, an assumption that all this convenience comes at a cost, namely security. That assumption is understandable too. 

Data breaches are on the rise around the globe, targeting everything from large-scale infrastructure to individual consumers. South Africa is far from immune to this phenomenon. Perhaps the most visibly, 54-million South Africans were affected by the TransUnion data breach that took place earlier this year.    

While cybercriminals have undoubtedly become more sophisticated, most breaches are still the result of stolen or weak credentials. It’s also true that many people still use the same weak passwords over and over again. 

For their part, many organisations are reluctant to place additional security requirements on consumers because they might compromise the convenience that they demand.    

While that may have been true in the past, organisations can today offer solutions that ensure convenience and security go hand in hand.    

Signing on for security

One of the best examples of this marriage of security and convenience is e-signatures. There is no doubt that e-signatures are more convenient. Anything that means not having to print out documents, physically sign them and scan them back in, or even worse, have to  courier them, can only be an improvement. 

They were also a boon during the strictest parts of the COVID-19 lockdowns. By allowing people to virtually sign documents from the convenience of their smartphone, tablet, or computer, they ensured that many people could continue doing their jobs, deals could still go through, and various other operational procedures could proceed unhindered.

But not all e-signatures are created equal. Organisations looking to adopt them should use a provider which caters to digital signatures that are contextually aware, enhanced with GPS location, device and network identifiers demonstrating the chain of custody.

Ideally, a provider should also build on the inherent convenience of e-signatures by making them socially inclusive. That means creating omnichannel signature processes that are available to everyone on their own devices. 

In a country like South Africa, that might mean including a USSD channel to cater to lower-income markets that still extensively use feature phones to transact.

Real-world impacts

Beyond simple signatures, digitally signed contracts and documents can go a long way toward improving security in the real world too. With the right measures in place, for example, fraudulent insurance claims can be detected almost instantly. That in turn means that legitimate claims can be dealt with far more promptly and conveniently.

Another example that shows how digital documents can combine convenience and security are electronic prescriptions. 

The convenience factor is obvious: when your doctor can simply email a repeat prescription to your pharmacy, you save yourself having to physically pick it up. But electronic prescriptions also mean that it’s more difficult for people to write up fraudulent scripts. 

It’s also worth noting that, because they don’t require pharmacists to decipher doctors’ handwriting, electronic prescriptions also help ensure patients get the right medication (something that can literally be a matter of life and death).   

Complementary beats compromise

So, rather than viewing security as something that has to be compromised for the sake of convenience, organisations should view the two concepts as complementary. 

By taking this “best-of-both-worlds” approach, organisations can ensure that they provide customers with the kinds of experiences that engender trust and loyalty. Crucially they can do so without exposing customers to the kind of undue risks that promote highly damaging breaches.  

By Carrie Peter, Managing Director , Impression Signatures and Brent Haumann, Managing Director, Striata Africa