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Digitisation Monitor 2019 – How policy-makers position themselves on digitisation

Digitalisation is a major challenge for politics: Citizens, but also the economy and science expect forward-looking decisions in this regard. Against this background, the Institute Public Sector Transformation (IPST) of the Bern University of Applied Sciences, together with the Universities of Zurich and Geneva, the online election aid “smartvote” and the ICT and online industry association Swico, launched the “Digitalisation Monitor 2019” in the run-up to the federal elections in October 2019. As part of the project, candidates in the National Council and Council of States elections were asked about their positions on digitisation using a thematically broad questionnaire. The BFH has now published an analysis report on the Digitisation Monitor, which provides a targeted evaluation of the data collected with a focus on attitudes towards digitisation in general, on digital democracy and opinion-forming, and on the institutional framework conditions that are essential for the expansion and development of new approaches to digital democracy.[1]

Moderate interest in the topic

A first insight can already be derived from the fact that the 20 questions of the digitisation monitor were only answered by just under a quarter of the total of 4,736 candidates. By way of comparison, the response rate for the online election aid “smartvote”, which comprised 75 questions, was more than three times as high. Despite the high presence in the media coverage, digitalisation in politics seems to have a much lower priority and only arouses moderate interest among the candidates. This also shows, however, that the awareness-raising goal of the Digitisation Monitor is still absolutely urgent. With regard to the present evaluations, it is positive to note that despite the rather low response rate, the data of the Digitisation Monitor are highly informative. A comparative analysis of the responses from the digitisation monitor and the “smartvote” data shows that there are no significant distortions and that the participants in the digitisation monitor have comparable response patterns to those of the “smartvote” participants (for details see BFH analysis report).

Positive basic attitude – Scepticism about individual projects

In general, digitalisation and its effects are largely assessed positively by the candidates of all parties (cf. Figure 1). However, greater differences and also more sceptical positional references emerge when asked specifically about individual areas (for example, whether digitalisation also makes society fairer). Looking at several questions, it becomes apparent that the attitude towards digitalisation also has an ideological character: liberal candidates (especially GLP and FDP candidates) tend towards optimistic-positive assessments, left-green and conservative candidates (especially Greens and SVP candidates) tend towards more sceptical assessments. In addition, it is evident that men and candidates from German-speaking Switzerland have a more positive basic attitude than women or French- and Italian-speaking candidates. It is noteworthy that the age of the candidates plays a lesser role than is generally assumed.

Figure 1

Positions on digital democracy

Even when it comes to digital innovations in the area of democratic opinion-forming and decision-making, the assessment often takes place along ideological lines. In particular, when regulatory issues come into play, the left-right dichotomy that dominates politics also clearly emerges in digitalisation issues (for example, on the topic of regulating social media platforms). The different assessment of e-voting (electronic voting) and e-collecting (collecting online signatures for initiatives and referendums) is interesting: while the e-voting issue tends to divide liberal supporters from conservative opponents, e-collecting divides left-wing supporters and right-wing opponents (cf. Figure 2).

Figure 2

On a whole range of issues, however, the candidates of all parties are in majority agreement. For example, there are majorities in all parties in favour of combating the negative excesses of social media platforms (e.g. in the area of “fake news” dissemination). However, it is disputed whether this should be done by means of state regulation or through self-regulation of the platforms (cf. Figure 3). The topic of “social media” is also one of the few topics where the age of the candidates clearly plays a role: Young candidates are much more critical of the regulation of these platforms than older candidates.

Figure 3

Furthermore, the evaluation points to the dubious reputation that the use of artificial intelligence (AI) enjoys in the context of government decisions (cf. Figure 4). In this area, there is clearly a greater gap between the assessment by politicians and the role that AI already plays in research and industry today.

Figure 4

When it comes to questions about digital infrastructure, e-government and data protection, clear majorities often emerge. In the media, topics such as the 5G mobile network, e-health, e-ID or data protection are often portrayed as fiercely controversial, but within the framework of the evaluations of the Digitialisation Monitor, the candidates and the parties prove to be clearly more consensus-oriented. For example, the expansion of the 5G network is opposed primarily by the Greens, while the SVP is opposed in the areas of e-government and data protection (cf. Figure 5). Positive assessments predominate among all other parties.

Figure 5

For example, all parties are also favourable to the proposal to anchor a fundamental right to digital integrity (e.g. with the right to be forgotten) in the constitution. Overall, the results show that, in principle, majorities for forward-looking solutions can be found among the candidates and parties in all areas of digitalisation policy.

Conclusion and outlook

The findings of the “Digitisation Monitor 2019” are illuminating in many ways for the future shaping of Switzerland’s digitisation policy. It also shows that much remains to be done. On the one hand, the only moderate interest in the project makes it clear that the topic of “digitisation” does not yet have the status in politics that it deserves. It is therefore urgent to raise awareness of the topic – not only among political decision-makers, but also among the general public. On the other hand, it is evident that the Swiss political parties have not yet developed any coherent positions on digitalisation. Admittedly, this is anything but easy with such a broad cross-sectional topic. Nevertheless, it would be important for the public that the parties take up their political role and quickly clarify their digitisation policy goals and positions in order to offer citizens a clear programmatic orientation before elections.


References

1] The complete report is available for download here.

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“The public sector needs more dialogue and less garden-variety thinking”

In order for the public sector in Switzerland to really take off digitally, there needs to be a cultural change in which all those involved have to overcome the “garden-variety thinking” that often still prevails. Thefederal government, cantons and municipalitiesinparticular should network more closely beyond their borders, says e-government expert Alain Gut, Director of Public Affairs at IBM Switzerland. From your point of view, how has the public sector transformed over the past five years from a business perspective? Are you satisfied with today’s maturity? The public sector has improved technologically in the last five years, but only very slowly. It still takes a lot of time to get to grips with new technologies and their possible influences and then to initiate corresponding projects. One benchmark in the public sector continues to be progress in eGovernment, and Switzerland is not really making much progress in this area. In comparison with other countries, we are not necessarily getting worse, but the others are getting better. In this sense, we can’t be satisfied with the Matura either. We are years behind with important basic services such as a functioning and widespread E-ID. Although we are (still) considered an innovative country, it is difficult for the public sector to accept and implement new developments. Political framework conditions and our pronounced federal system do not help to ensure a little more flexibility and sometimes speed. When we talk about transformation: Where should the public sector go? What are the expectations of the economy? One major obstacle to transformation is certainly procurement law, which imposes very tight constraints on both the administration and the providers. This also means that larger projects take a very long time and are often in need of “renovation” by the time they are implemented. With more dialogue (this is provided for in the old as well as the new procurement law), better and more innovative solutions could certainly be found. In addition, it is absolutely essential that a cultural change takes hold in the public sector. With today’s and tomorrow’s technological possibilities and the necessity of continuous end-to-end processes, the “garden-variety thinking” of departments, directorates, divisions and offices must become a thing of the past. This requires the political will and the necessary technological understanding of the executive and an administration that, as one unit, enables its customers, the citizens and the companies, to have modern and simple interactions around the clock. How does innovation happen in the public sector? This is a question that has occupied me ever since I have been involved in the public sector, and that is quite a few years now. What are the characteristics of an innovative culture? They certainly include creativity, trust in employees and the acceptance of mistakes – in other words, you have to be prepared to take risks – and a distinct and transparent communication behaviour. It is certainly not presumptuous to claim that these are not the distinctive behavioural characteristics of an administration. Moreover, procurement law almost does not allow the public sector to conduct pilot projects or tests together with suppliers. On the one hand, the administration wants to avoid invitations to tender for this, if possible, and on the other hand, providers do not want to expose themselves to a preliminary consultation and contribute know-how without being able to count on a corresponding contract. Innovation therefore needs an appropriate cultural environment and framework conditions that allow for innovative ideas. The OECD has developed a framework that summarises the problem very well: People, Knowledge, Ways of working, Rules and processes. On 20 November 2019, the Federal Council adopted the eGovernment Strategy Switzerland 2020-2023. The binding regulation of cooperation between the Confederation, cantons and municipalities is emphasised in this strategy. In this context, the final report of the “Digital Administration” project of the FDF and the CCC, which was published at the end of October, mentions three variants, according to which the third variant is the establishment of an authority that would be responsible primarily for transversal matters. Whatdo you think of the proposed models? It is gratifying that it has been recognised at all levels that a change in strategy is needed in the area of eGovernment and digital administration in order to be able to master the technological challenges. The proposed models are a typical Swiss compromise. Actually, everyone wants the best, third variant, but they are aware that in our federal system the necessary (legal) framework makes this (almost) impossible and takes a lot of time. The pressure for a nationally coordinated solution is probably also too low; our administrative apparatus still functions too well for that. The police forces also have a comparable project with HPi (Harmonisation of Swiss Police IT). After eight years, the results achieved are manageable and many hurdles of an organisational, legal and project-related nature had to be overcome. The “Digital Administration” project is about governance and cooperation. Should we urgently put other aspects on the agenda? The “Digital Administration” project covers the most important areas such as strategy, standards, innovation, services and networking very well. As always, it is not the strategy itself that matters, but how the strategy can be implemented. In principle, it is understandable that the Confederation, the cantons and the municipalities see themselves as responsible. That is certainly right. It would be desirable if there were more cooperation with the economy and science. Whether this takes place in the form of PPPs (Public Private Partnerships) or in working groups is secondary. What is important is the exchange of ideas and possibilities, working together to find the best solutions and the broad anchoring of results at all levels of government, especially among the population. We have invested a lot in projects and services in recent years. Brussels gives us bad marks because we are lagging behind in an international comparison in the area of basic services (cf. EU benchmark 2019). Which basic services should be prioritised? What is planned in concrete terms? Where do you see the challenges? Certainly, electronic identity, digital mail (electronic sending of documents and information between the state and the population/companies), eDocuments (documents can be securely downloaded and uploaded) and authentic sources (authorities fill out forms with known data in advance) should be prioritised. The basis of all this, however, is the electronic identity. It is in itself a prerequisite for all official processes. Switzerland’s new eGovernment strategy provides for corresponding measures in the area of basic services and infrastructure. Standards and interfaces must be created for this purpose. Without these, identity, access and data management can hardly be implemented. The Confederation, cantons and municipalities are challenged here. However, it must always be borne in mind that Switzerland is not on an island. The interfaces must also enable electronic exchange with other countries, especially from the EU. A referendum is likely to be held against the E-ID bill. Opponents of the bill believe that proof of identity is a sovereign task that cannot be left to the economy. Is this basically a question of trust or rather the role of the state in the digital age? It is about both. The state must in itself be able to offer an electronic identity. Why it does not want to do this under the new E-ID law is a matter in itself. The idea is that the state will check the identity and that the solution itself will be provided by third parties. Whether the state can be forced to do this by a possible referendum remains to be seen. Nor is this an ideal starting position and would delay the introduction of electronic identity by years. More important than who issues it is that the solution fulfils the necessary “blindness”, i.e. that no one – not even the issuer of the E-ID – can see who has carried out a transaction with whom. This is the prerequisite for trust in the electronic identity. The role of the state in the digital age is an exciting and still unresolved question and will require an intensive dialogue between the state, the population, companies and, above all, politics. At a panel discussion at the2019 networking event “Digital Administration for the Benefit of All”, Michel Huissoud, Director of the Federal Audit Office , proposed taking a constitutional initiative to redesign the administration of basic registers.Would this be the right approach to launch the public discourse on the topic of data policy? A constitutional initiative would certainly be one way to launch a broad discussion on the topic of data policy. However, there are already some efforts to raise awareness about the handling of data and to bring it onto the political stage. Open government data, data governance, data portability and Swiss Data Space are just some of the terms that are relevant in the context of a data policy. For Europe, IBM has developed such a vision for the year 2024 – “For a responsible, open and inclusive digital Europe”. An accepted data policy is necessary not only for eGovernment, but also for initiatives such as eHealth or eMobility. Open data as the new raw material not only of digital administration, legal requirements and framework conditions that make Switzerland an attractive data location must be the goals of data policy. After the major scandals involving social media platforms that spread dangerous information and misuse personal data to an unprecedented extent, there is in itself a high degree of sensitivity to the topic of data. But here, too, the administration, the economy, science and politics are needed. Only together can a data policy be established. In your opinion, which topics should be included in the political discourse? Is the Swiss public sector ready for artificial intelligence? Basically, the public sector should deal with all new technologies. Whether blockchain, artificial intelligence, quantum computing or hybrid clouds, they will all influence the public sector. However, it will be necessary for the public sector to integrate both the traditional and the new systems. This requires both business expertise and knowledge of new technologies. It is actually not only a matter of “integrating” them with each other, but also of transferring them into each other. A culture of agility and innovation is becoming increasingly important. Understanding an administrative process and how technology can be embedded in that process will be the key factor for the future success of the public sector. In this sense, people are also not (yet) ready for a concrete use of artificial intelligence. And here, too, it is important to keep regulation in check. The Federal Chancellery (with NZZLibro) has just issueda publication on Switzerland 2030 :What does digital administration look like in 2030? And based on that: What are the next steps? There are only ten years left for digital administration 2030. That is very little time for the administration. However, if we succeed in implementing all strategies – such as the eGovernment Strategy or the Digital Administration Strategy – as planned, Switzerland will certainly be in a better position than it is today. However, there is a great danger that we will not succeed in introducing new technologies, such as 5G, in time. The Confederation has an important role to play here in sensitising the population in advance and preparing the relevant information. Digitalisation is increasingly becoming the driving force for innovation in the economy and society. It is necessary to proactively seize the opportunities of this transformation in order to position Switzerland as an innovative and competitive business location in the future. It is therefore important that employees in the public sector – regardless of whether they are men or women – are given new perspectives and are appropriately empowered for the new jobs and skills. Let’s see digitalisation as an opportunity – also for the public sector!


About the person

Dr Alain Gut is Director of Public Affairs at IBM Switzerland. He is involved in numerous commissions and committees on the topics of education and IT, cyber security, mobility and data policy.

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“We don’t just need a technology debate, but above all a socio-political debate”

The political structures in Switzerland can have a blocking effect on the topic of eGovernment. In an interview with Benedikt Würth, Finance Director of St. Gallen and President of the Conference of Cantonal Governments, we discussed what is important when it comes to institutional reforms. We have seen that the joint report of the Federal Department of Finance (FDF) and the Conference of Cantonal Governments (KdK) on the organisation of cooperation across federal levels has come out on the subject of eGovernment. Can you report on this? The key question today is how business processes are changing in the course of digitalisation and whether our structures are sufficiently geared to this change. This applies to private companies, but also to the state. In terms of Switzerland, horizontal, i.e. interdepartmental cooperation is required, but also vertical, cross-state cooperation. Our understanding of federalism has always been that we adapt new developments. This means that we have to find new forms of cooperation so that we can satisfy the demands of the economy and society in the area of digital services and digital government. Of course, one can take the position that the state is not in competition, so we continue as before. But that is a fallacy. Society and the economy expect us to provide these services digitally on the one hand and to try to be as efficient as possible on the other. If you draw an international comparison, you find that we, as a high-tech country, are not at the top. That is regrettable and probably also has to do with structural conditions. You mean federalism? Not only. As mentioned, not only vertical cooperation is required, but also horizontal cooperation. The pronounced distribution of responsibility is one of Switzerland’s great advantages. In the digital administration, there is actually a lot going on, perhaps too much, so that the wheels do not always mesh, but may even block each other. We must therefore network ourselves much better horizontally and vertically in the digital cross-cutting issues. This is the only way we can make use of the digital opportunities. You are actually talking about the use of synergies horizontally and vertically. However, the document also deals with commitment. Can you perhaps say something more about this? Is this necessary? In St. Gallen, the canton and the municipalities have a governance, a joint structure that is able to create liabilities. That is very important in this topic, because it is no use if we have 90 percent of the municipalities in one solution and the remaining 10 percent do it differently again. We will only have the right leverage effect when everyone is on board. At the national level, we want to build up commitment step by step. We want to raise the level of ambition step by step. There should always be a political discussion about whether we should deepen our cooperation next time. Personally, I hope that the Confederation and the cantons will eventually have a governance that can create obligations in the central issues, be it identification, basic services or master data management. These are all things that are actually the raw material for the development of further process-related applications in the individual areas. But you also want liabilities in regulation. How do you want to achieve that? Of course, it is ultimately the parliament and the people who create binding force through laws. But it is important to us that the federal government and the cantons have a structure in the future that can determine at an early stage what we need in terms of regulation in Switzerland in the entire area of digitalisation. A better and earlier vote might have helped us, for example, with the controversial e-ID law, to recognise resistance that is now manifesting itself in the referendum in good time and to develop answers to it once again. So do we need a national e-government law? It may be that at the highest level of ambition we even need a constitutional basis. I still hope that we will get relatively far within the framework of the current order. But one could also say: we have the digital transformation and the constitution must be aligned with that. For us, it is crucial that this topic is explored in depth together and that solutions are found that are supported by the Confederation and the cantons. How does the national level differ from the cantonal level? The degree of complexity is simply much greater. In our understanding of the constitution, the cantons are sovereign. They have original competence in this area. There is also a lot going on in terms of intercantonal cooperation. My canton, with its 77 communes, has just joined the www.iGov-Portal.ch association. This was founded by the cantons of Fribourg and Jura in 2017. Now the cantons of Solothurn and St. Gallen have also joined. This means that more than one million inhabitants will use the digital services offered via this portal. Federalism also has an advantage in this point because it has a certain laboratory character. People try things out, develop topics and learn from each other, which is exciting. At the national level, we have a high degree of complexity. In this context, Ueli Maurer always says: “We don’t have one federal administration, we have 80 federal offices.” This heterogeneous structure is a challenge. The federal administration is a big colossus, departments and individual offices develop their strategies. The cross-cutting offices (IT, personnel, etc.) generally have a relatively weak position. When people talk about binding governance, they immediately react with certain reflexes – they can’t or shouldn’t do something any more. But it is not about centralising IT. We want to create a foundation that makes it possible to develop applications more efficiently, that are oriented towards processes and that are as free of media discontinuities as possible. The cultural challenge will be to move away from the traditional structural and hierarchical thinking that is inherent in the administration to a process thinking that is not necessarily only oriented towards departmental or office boundaries. You are referring to the regulatory framework. At the same time, you also mention a necessary cultural change. Is there a need for both? Yes. For the cultural change, we need not only the linear way of thinking, but also the more process-oriented and networked way. It’s a push and pull: on the one hand, we are pulled because of the development, which is technologically driven, but on the other hand, we also need the appropriate regulatory framework for implementation. An example: I am the Minister of Finance. Today, more than 50 percent of our tax assessments are submitted electronically, in some municipalities up to 70 percent. But the process is still not fully electronic until we have the electronic signature. That is very unsatisfactory, because technologically the prerequisites would have been in place long ago. Let’s move on to the issue of trust and data protection. The Federal Parliament will soon be debating the Data Protection Act. The bill is weaker than, for example, the European DPA. But if you want to win the trust of the people, wouldn’t that be the bone of contention? It’s important that we have regulations that protect my data, but at the same time you realise that people themselves are quite relaxed about their own data. That is a certain contradiction. I think we are still in a certain transitional phase. Transparency is important in this topic. In my canton’s e-government law, we have defined when and under what conditions data exchange agreements must be created. These agreements are all transparent and can be called up. Conversely, it is not acceptable that in the end so many hurdles are created within the administration because of data protection that all the advantages that we could actually have with digital solutions are cancelled out. Another important topic is data policy. Would that perhaps be a way to create trust, to have this discourse in public? We have to have this discourse, it is already underway. France is currently in a big debate with biometric facial recognition. The government wants to develop a third channel for public services (besides analogue and online access). This is a highly political discussion. I am not euphoric about digitalisation, but pragmatic. I see the opportunities, but logically also the dangers. You can see this well in the current discussion in France. In Switzerland, with its direct democracy and federalism, new solutions are only possible if there is a broad political debate and discourse. That’s why we need not only a technology debate, but above all a socio-political debate about how far we want to go. That was Michel Huissoud’s idea. He said a few weeks ago at a networking event in a panel in connection with sharing data in inter-agency cooperation, we can talk about it for a long time, but what would be important is to think about how the administration of the basic registers is redesigned That is an important core. But for that you need a structure, a governance that is able to set liabilities and standards on how to deal with data protection and data sharing. It always needs a political discussion if you want to go a step further. The joint FDF/CDC report aims at the highest level of ambition for a joint authority that is able to set standards. I think it is strategically important for the cantons to enter into this discussion now. We have to manage the digital transformation together. We don’t want the Confederation to steer unilaterally. What does digital administration ideally look like for you in 2030? It will have far more possibilities for direct and media-free interactions between citizens and the state that are possible around the clock. In my canton, we already have an office that works with chatbots. This will expand in the areas where we have large mass transactions. In specialised areas, however, many things remain analogue. Think of a complex tax assessment. We will have e-portal solutions that deserve the name and not umpteen portals side by side. A uniform electronic identity is a matter of course. For someone who is concerned with the great digital upheavals – e.g. artificial intelligence – these steps may not be great. But I am realistic. When I look at the pace of the last ten years, we have to gain momentum and that is not only through new technologies, but also through new institutional approaches.


About the person

Benedikt Würth (CVP) has been a cantonal government councillor in the canton of St. Gallen since 2010 and will retire from this office in May 2020. He heads the Department of Finance and has been President of the Conference of Cantonal Governments since 2017. Benedikt Würth has been a member of the Council of States since June 2019.


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EasyGov.swiss: eGovernment according to the needs of businesses

Two years ago, the then Minister of Economic Affairs, Johann Schneider-Ammann, announced the new online platform of the authorities: “The EasyGov.swiss online counter brings administrative relief to SMEs”. At the beginning of December 2019, the third major expansion of EasyGov with new services for public authorities took place. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO is thus demonstrating that e-government is possible at a high level in a federal state The goals set are high: on EasyGov, government services are to be made available in such a way that they can be used from a single source without special knowledge of government responsibilities and without specialised technical knowledge. “The business processes of the administration will be consistently aligned with user needs, simplified, standardised and optimised in terms of their efficiency,” states the Confederation’s “Digital Switzerland” strategy. “The most important principle of EasyGov is customer centricity,” Martin Godel, head of SME policy at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, tells governmenttobusiness.com. In order to know the needs of businesses in the area of eGovernment, these were surveyed at the beginning of 2019 in the second National eGovernment Study in collaboration with eGovernment Switzerland. For example, 60 percent of businesses are of the opinion that finding government offerings makes them most difficult to use. This is precisely why the central goal of EasyGov is to offer a bundled range of government services on a single platform. Step by step, a one-stop shop is to be set up on which companies can process all public authority services offered via a single account with uniform user guidance. In this way, regularly required company data such as address data or the commercial register number only have to be entered once. EasyGov thus already fulfils the once-only principle, which the EU has defined as a benchmark for good e-government solutions.

Three major updates in two years

SECO also takes into account the wishes of businesses as far as possible in the order in which new administrative procedures are launched. For example, the ten most common changes to the commercial register were integrated a year ago and all debt collection offices were connected last summer. With the current update from the beginning of December 2019, wage declarations can now also be transmitted to SUVA. All of these official procedures were at the top of the companies’ list of priorities. Since its launch in November 2017, EasyGov has already undergone three major updates. At the beginning, the platform was used in particular by founders, who can complete all the necessary official procedures for setting up a company online, from registration with the commercial register to VAT, social security and accident insurance. With the latest updates, EasyGov has now also become more attractive for existing companies.

E-Government in a federal state

EasyGov is part of the strategy of eGovernment Switzerland, the organisation of the Confederation, cantons and municipalities for the expansion of electronic government services. Every time new services are launched, new authorities must be involved. This is always a great challenge for Martin Godel’s team. “We can’t order the authorities to do anything, we have to convince them of the benefits each time,” Martin Godel recently told Radio RTS. Many public administrations today operate portals with correspondingly high costs for development, operation, maintenance, support and personnel. These costs could be saved by the authorities choosing EasyGov as their portal and focusing their activities on their core business – the processing of the actual authority process. Furthermore, this usually goes hand in hand with a higher standard of development and customer friendliness, as EasyGov offers many things that most platforms cannot provide. For example, a customer service desk is part of the EasyGov package, where SMEs can call from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in four languages. The ambitious approach of building a one-stop shop for government services in a federal state requires good stakeholder engagement and staying power. Each launch of a new service goes through the same process. This project management allows new government services to be offered to companies every six months or so.


Services offered by EasyGov.swiss Version 1.5

Currently EasyGov offers the following government services:

  1. Company formation
  2. Registrations with: a) Commercial Register, b) AHV (Compensation Funds), c) Value Added Tax and d) Accident Insurance (Suva and Private Insurers)
  3. Commercial register changes with cross-cantonal relocations of registered offices and public certifications
  4. Debt collection and debt collection information for companies, associations, foundations, cooperatives and private individuals
  5. Guarantees for SMEs The guarantee cooperatives recognised by the Confederation provide SMEs with easier access to bank loans. SMEs can contact the relevant guarantee organisation via EasyGov.
  6. Suva wage declarations Companies without their own payroll accounting software can enter their wage data directly in EasyGov and then transmit it to Suva.
  7. Licensing database Overview of professions requiring a licence and regulated professions in Switzerland at federal, cantonal and municipal level.
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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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Use of mobile identity solutions within the framework of electronic ID

The need for a digital means of identification is growing. In Switzerland, electronic identity (eID) is regulated by the eID Act and provides, for example, for a division of tasks between the state and the authorities. The question therefore arises to what extent a mobile device can support identity verification, regardless of whether one actually uses a service via smartphone or the device is only used for identification and authentication. While the challenges regarding security and data protection are becoming increasingly greater in the age of Big Data, the need for an identity solution with a high level of user-friendliness is becoming more and more important. At the European level, the establishment of a digital single market is being driven forward. Switzerland, for its part, has adopted the “Digital Switzerland” strategy. Both developments require the realisation of a trustworthy electronic identity to authenticate companies and individuals for electronic transactions with authorities. However, the successful implementation and the associated acceptance of electronic identity solutions depends very much on how user-friendly and simple such a solution is perceived to be.

Identification with the smartphone

One identity solution that is perceived to be highly user-friendly is identification via mobile devices such as the smartphone. However, the security and data protection aspects for such mobile identity solutions have not yet been conclusively clarified for Switzerland. Particularly for transactions with sensitive data, mobile identity solutions are not yet widespread in Switzerland. Mobile identity solutions are also rarely used for e-government services. In general, the demands that citizens place on eGovernment services are very high. On the one hand, the protection of privacy must be guaranteed, and on the other hand, it should be possible to use the services around the clock, regardless of the device. Obtaining services and carrying out transactions via smartphone or tablet are now commonplace for many citizens. The MobileID mobile identity solution that exists in Switzerland is operated by Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise and, in contrast to the electronic identity (eID), uses not only the internet but also the radio network of the three companies. To obtain the MobileID in Switzerland, it is necessary to obtain a PKI-enabled SIM card and own a smartphone. Other possible and existing forms of mID abroad are chip-based (Sweden) and blockchain-based (Slovenia and Canada) mIDs. MobileID is only used sporadically in Switzerland (e.g. PostFinance), but for e-government services the question arises for which services and in what form the mobile device can and should support identity verification.

Already widespread abroad

A look at the administration abroad shows that electronic identity solutions go beyond chip cards and USB sticks and that successful integrations with smartphones do exist. The following solution elements can be found in the mobile identity solutions that exist on the market so far:

  • Federated identity: A Mobile ID (mID) is able to be used in different IT systems and websites.
  • Two-factor authentication: A mobile device such as a smartphone can be used as a second factor for authentication. This second factor can consist of either knowledge, possession or characteristics. In terms of mobile devices, this means that possession of a SIM card and/or a smartphone represents a second factor.
  • Mobile digital signature: SIM cards are able to use cryptographic operations. Here, a Wireless Public Key Infrastructure (WPKI) is set up, through which the user receives a digital certificate via SIM card, which he can then use several times and at different websites. It is also possible to make a digital signature legally equivalent to a physical signature.

In Finland there are over 300 services where the so-called mID is applied. In the area of social insurance, healthcare, but also as a state-recognised signature, the mID is used intensively in Finland. According to Finnish law, mobile signatures are legally equivalent to physical signatures.

Figure: Process of mID use in Moldova (Source: Moldovan government, 2014)

In Moldova, an mID solution has already been in use since 2012. Registration takes place within 15 minutes and the solution is based on strong authentication. Especially in the business-to-government sector, mID is used, but also in areas of tax returns and social insurance. Around a quarter of social security forms are verified by mID in Moldova, for example.

Identification via SIM card

In Estonia, too, mID is based on the SIM card. The certificate is always valid for three years and must then be replaced. Electronic signature and mobile authentication are based on PKI SIM cards. Almost all online service providers in the public and private sectors in Estonia accept the mID as a solution for identification and authentication. Thus, the mID is used almost everywhere in Estonia, i.e. for example for vehicle registration, driver’s licence registration, healthcare, social security, as a state-approved signature, tax declaration, business registration and elections. These examples of mobile identity solutions are almost all implemented on the basis of PKI-enabled SIM cards. However, mobile identity solutions have only gradually developed into a viable solution thanks to pioneering efforts and certain failures. It is striking that in each of the countries studied, as in Switzerland, there is only one mobile identity solution. The success factor is always the nationwide cooperation between the authorities and telecommunications companies. In addition, the support of the private sector and a high number of usable services from the public and private sectors are crucial.

Moldova creates smart applications without eID

In Switzerland, there are only a small number of business cases so far, which is why a mobile identity solution currently offers little added value for identification and authentication with a mobile identity solution. However, the foreign examples also show that the use, for example, for vehicle and driver’s licence registration is not complex and at the same time offers a very large added value for user-friendliness. Countries like Estonia show what could potentially be done with a mobile identity solution by using mID in almost all areas. Moldova also demonstrates that no eID is needed at all if the mobile identity solution is supported by all stakeholders. If the success factors of the leading countries are extrapolated to Switzerland, it can be stated that the cooperation of all telecommunication companies has already taken place and therefore a good basis has been laid. The telecommunication companies are state-certified Identity Providers (IdPs), which already carry out identity checks on citizens when they obtain an ordinary SIM card. However, as the success of a mobile identity solution depends on the number of usable services in the private and public sector, federalism seems to be a particular obstacle with regard to interoperability in the public sector, and this disadvantage also applies to the eID. Cantons would have to harmonise services related to the implementation of MobileID use in order to benefit from the positive synergy effects.


References

Estonian Government (1 April 2017). Using mobile ID. Retrieved 9 September 2018 from Id.ee: https://www.id.ee/index.php?id=36884 Gemalto (16 December 2014). White Paper National Mobile ID schemes – Learning from today’s best practices. (Gemalto, ed.) Retrieved 28 August 2018 from Gemalto Government Programs: http://www.id-world-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/WP-Gemalto-MobileID-overview-EN.pdf Gemalto (2018). Expand your national identity system. Retrieved 17 October 2018 from Gemalto Mobile ID: https://www.gemalto.com/govt/coesys/mobile-id GSMA (11 July 2013). Finnish Mobile ID: A Lesson in Interoperability – An Executive Summary. Retrieved 28 August 2018 from GSMA: https://www.gsma.com/identity/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/SC_GSM_288_Finland-Mobile-ID-executive-summary-100713-v4.pdf Moldovan Government. (14 October 2014). Case Study. Retrieved 29 August 2018 from eGov Moldova: www.egov.md/ro/file/3695/download?token=7fnIFJzO

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