January issue: Digital Administration Switzerland – from integration to transformation

There is a consensus that we are doing well in Switzerland – our health system, security as well as education, to name just a few examples, are top notch. The challenge is to do the right thing today – so that it will still be good to live and work here in 20 years’ time. Looking at the European market enables us to connect – in the legal, organisational and technical sense and shows us trends that we can put on the agenda ourselves. Let’s think, for example, of the once-only principle. Poor rankings from EU studies are an incentive to build up political pressure here in the country. Trend reports from the OECD are impulses for reflecting on our innovative strength. The Innovation Index of Cornell University and INSEAD has been published – we are No. 1 among the Innovation Leaders. Switzerland is top for knowledge and outputs in technology and creativity. So far, all good. But according to the European Commission’s eGovernment Benchmark 2019, we have some catching up to do: a lack of basic services leads Brussels to rate our performance poorly. We have put a focus on projects and services; now it’s a matter of implementing the digital data infrastructure. International analyses are not only quantitative and related to rankings. The OECD’s Observatory Public Sector Innovation collects concrete use cases and then clusters them into trends. It is not only about digitalisation – sometimes it is precisely the examination of other approaches that is enriching. For example, the city of Amsterdam is adopting the Airbnb concept for state buildings – it’s about meaningful interim use when they are empty. It is about addressing concrete challenges of a social, economic or ecological nature with innovative approaches. The current strategy period for eGovernment Switzerland came to an end in 2019: With the new year, the eGovernment Strategy Switzerland 2020-2023 of the Confederation, cantons and municipalities will enter into force. At the end of November, eGovernment Switzerland conducted an assessment of the current situation and examined the fundamental question of how the digitisation of the administration can develop the greatest possible benefit for society (more information here). In academia, we talk about a maturity model for the digital transformation of the state. While in recent years we have focused on optimising processes, improving data storage and – for us centrally – on inter-agency cooperation, now everything increasingly revolves around the smart state, which combines new resources with knowledge and know-how in order to approach concrete problems, make decisions or provide services. Switzerland has passed the communication and transaction phase and is currently in the integration phase – the National Address Service is a good example of this. From a research perspective, the question of how we reach the final maturity stage of this model is exciting. Three directions for the digital transformation of the state can be identified:

  • The openness of the state to decision-making and service delivery,
  • the relevance of trust in state action, and infrastructure as an enabler
  • the whole area around data and services based on it.

Towards transformation, the following fields of action must be kept on the radar:

  • We need to invest in digital competences and skills and empower leadership in digital transformation
  • It is about thinking about how we can advance “good data governance” in the federal system and according to which principles we want to exchange data and reuse it within the authorities
  • And: We need experimental spaces – besides the daily business – where we can get out of our comfort zone and experiment with new things.

In this issue, you can read how the federal administration’s new human resources strategy focuses on the challenges of digital transformation, how innovation in the public sector can be driven forward from the perspective of the private sector, or how governance is playing an increasingly important role from a political perspective. I wish you an exciting read.

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AUTHOR: Alessia Neuroni

Alessia Neuroni is head of the Institute Public Sector Transformation at BFH Wirtschaft. She is responsible for Big and Open Data at the BFH Center Digital Society. Her thematic focus is on data governance and leadership of cross-agency innovation projects.

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