What if the AHV number became an email address?

Digital identity is particularly important in official communication with authorities. Our guest author and President of the Conference of Cantonal Compensation Offices (KKAK) Andreas Dummermuth writes about his everyday life at the compensation office in the canton of Schwyz and future security solutions in authorities Social security is the most expensive infrastructure in Switzerland. Not the most important, but the most expensive. In 2015, 163 billion Swiss francs went into a health insurance fund, a pension fund, a family compensation fund, an accident fund or another fund. Trend: rising! 163 billion francs, that is 25 percent of Switzerland’s gross domestic product. So every fourth franc earned in Switzerland flows into social security. This enormous economic importance is necessarily reflected in the current financial and social policy discussions. Every franc that is spent must be spent in accordance with tight regulation. Every franc that is received also requires a clear factual and legal basis. Social security is so highly regulated because it involves 163 billion francs for over eight million people. Good, reliable and tangible organisation and implementation of social security is therefore a locational advantage for Switzerland.

Security in mass business

The procedure for handling this mass business is regulated in the Federal Act on the General Part of Social Insurance Law (ATSG). The procedure can be described in telegram style: No benefit without notification – no benefit without decree. Notification and decision are therefore the two cornerstones – in between there is a highly regulated clarification and decision-making process. As the manager of a cantonal social insurance office, the Schwyz Compensation Fund / IV Office, I have to ensure that all our legally defined social insurance products are produced correctly, economically, expeditiously and in a citizen-friendly manner. Our products have abbreviations: AHV, IV, EO, MSE, FZ, EL, IPV, PF, etc. In a small canton with about 157,000 inhabitants, we pay out annual benefits of about 750 million francs and collect social security contributions of half a billion francs. To do this, we scan almost a million pages of paper that are delivered to our offices every year. For twenty years, we have had a ‘paperless’ office in Schwyz with a digital archive and a workflow system, which has proven excellent for the internal control system and the quality management system, allowing for audit-proof processes. However, very fast and very accurate customer information is the most important thing about it. We know in every case and at every stage who has done what. By the way: everything that is scanned is disposed of in a physically secure way. What remains is only digital information. With annual IT security audits, we have this system constantly checked for security and functionality. Because we are of the opinion that the federal structure of implementation is also the best of all ways for social insurances, we do not cultivate cantonalism for a long time. Twenty cantons and the Principality of Liechtenstein have pooled their IT in the Swiss Informatics Society for Social Insurance.

App versus paper

Interim conclusion: We have a completely paperless procedure within the company. But before and after? In-bound’ and ‘out-bound’ are not yet completely digital. So digital registration and digital disposition are the next necessary steps. Personally, I think that this is technically the much smaller challenge than the paperless workflow system with the enormous data stocks. However, while we can act relatively independently internally, we are logically dependent on interfaces for ‘in-bound’ and ‘out-bound’. But now step by step according to the ATSG. Let’s start with the registration. In Schwyz, we can offer employers a free application for digital secure communication. The entire handling of social security contributions, family allowances, maternity compensation and income replacement regulations are handled by the companies and the compensation office without paper or signatures. AHVeasy is of course compatible with www.swissdec.ch. Unfortunately, however, many SMEs still prefer the traditional paper route, even though we in Schwyz give companies a twenty percent discount on their administrative cost contributions every year. So digital communication is working more and more with the companies. But it’s different with individual customers, the insured who want to receive a benefit. The associations ‘eAHV/IV ‘ and ‘Informationsstelle AHV/IV ‘ are working on a joint project to offer such new digital registration options. In the process, a problem is getting in our way that is not a problem at all. What do I mean? Legally, a registration does not have to have the signature of the insured person. But this principle is not lived. However, the tradition of a handwritten signature on a paper form has persisted for 200 years. This is called custom.

From the digital to the real

So when it comes to registration, we have some leeway: the registration does not actually have to be signed, but verification of the person is always possible. This leeway could be used for digital and intelligent registration tools. These would support the insured, relieve them of unnecessary form work and give the insurance bodies the data basis for their production applications. This brings us to the second point: the order. The bigger problem is the delivery of the decision, the dispatch of the decree. This must be done precisely: Today, the name and postal address of the insured person as well as their representatives can be ascertained, verified and standardised. If necessary, Swiss Post also offers secure delivery methods (e.g. A-Post plus or registered mail). Unfortunately, insurance carriers do not have a secure digital route. With a state-regulated digital identity, this would then be possible. Or formulated differently: Social insurance is dependent on a basic digital infrastructure (e-ID, secured mail address, reliable bandwidth). If we had that, then a simple, cheap and technically unspectacular way would be conceivable for the social insurances. Specifically: AHV number = email address. Full stop. Every natural person in Switzerland already has a national insurance number. This becomes AHV-Nummer@ahv.ch for example, or AHV-Nummer@sss.ch. ‘sss’ stands for “Social Security Switzerland”, which would be meaningful in all national languages and English. A central office, e.g. the Central Compensation Office ZAS, which already assigns the AHV numbers, deals with this and provides the e-mail address. The crux of the matter is the same as all other economic operators have: The verification of person and address. But half the world already does that today and that’s why we can do it in Switzerland too. The advantage for the population and all social security organs is clear: every communication and every delivery of an order can be made to this email address. And here too: Secured emails exist in private and public business life. You don’t have to do that either, you just have to install it. If one wants to. Social security is the most expensive infrastructure in Switzerland. As I said, not the most important, but the most expensive. That is precisely why it is worthwhile for this national economic infrastructure task to also have an economically modern infrastructure for communication.

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AUTHOR: Andreas Dummermuth

Andreas Dummermuth is President of the Conference of Cantonal Compensation Offices (KKAK) and has headed the Schwyz Compensation Office / IV Office since 2007.

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