The current e-government situation of Switzerland is stuck in an “intermediary phase” of implementation and harmonization, according to a new report. In particular with regard to user-friendly electronic identification and Internet voting, Switzerland is still struggling.
According to a report by xUpery, commissioned by Procivis, Switzerland is standing at a point where it must proceed firmly towards robust, but costly, e-government solutions that are promising in the long term in order to avoid stagnation in its e-government advancement.
But despite the challenges, there is still plenty of potential for the development of innovative solutions in Switzerland – even in an environment with many difficulties. The Swiss system has the main advantage of offering a “testing environment” for different e-government technologies, but the downside is slower speed, the report says.
The report, released on January 24, 2017, provides an update on the implementation of e-government in Switzerland and examines the current stage in this process. It compares the state of e-government in Switzerland and Estonia, where relevant solutions are enabling efficient administrative procedures for its citizens and unique possibilities of political participation. Furthermore, Estonia’s e-government infrastructure provides an environment for business innovation with e-residency, for instance, the report notes.
Estonia, a tiny 1.3 million population country, has emerged as a global leader in e-government, thanks to major push by the government through a movement referred to as e-Estonia.
e-Estonia, which aims to facilitate citizen interactions with the state through the use of electronic solutions, has created a more connected society and established the capital city of Tallinn as an innovation hotspot. Digital services created under the initiative include i-Voting, e-Tax Board, e-Business, e-Banking, e-Ticket, e-School, University via Internet and the e-Governance Academy, among others.
According to journalist Jeremy Epstein, the move has not only allowed the government to reduce expenditures by 2% of gross domestic product, it has also given rise to “one of the world’s most entrepreneurial and innovative countries, with the second-largest number of startups per capita.”
But the e-Estonia initiative goes well-beyond bringing schools online, enabling e-voting and equipping all inhabited areas with free wifi network. In December 2014, the e-Residency move was launched to offer electronic residency to people from outside the country, a step that the Estonian government qualifies as “moving towards the idea of a country without borders.”
As of Switzerland, the experiences in different e-government fields have so far revealed that it is difficult to change the implementation and legislation procedure in Switzerland unless there is a clear political consensus.
Among the key difficulties and hindering factors, the report points out that the federal nature of Switzerland, which has a number of downsides: finding political consensus takes longer; it involves more stakeholders and government levels; the development and introduction of standardized technological solutions are more difficult, happen at a slower pace, and frequently, the outcome is the co-existence of different and competing systems.
Switzerland’s e-government Strategy
In 2007, the Swiss Federal Council adopted the first e-government Strategy Switzerland, the first step towards an integrated, nationwide form of e-government. It sought to reduce administrative burdens through process optimization, standardization, and the development of common solutions.
The strategy was later revised and a new plan was adopted by the Confederation, the cantons and the communes at the end of 2015.
Among the key operational objectives of Switzerland’s e-government plan for the years to come, the country plans to have:
- A uniform registration procedure for e-government services on portals at various federal levels by 2019;
- The ten most frequently requested electronic government services for the general public and businesses will be integrated in the national e-government portals by the end of 2019;
- A joint organization to be established by 2018 for the procurement, operation and maintenance of joint e-government solutions;
- An electronic identity (eID) that is valid nationally and internationally to be established by 2019;
- The allocation of data to a specific person in the electronic exchange between information systems to be ensured by 2019.
- By 2019, it will be possible to seamlessly report changes of address (arrival and departure) electronically throughout Switzerland;
- The Confederation and the cantons will continually push ahead with extending electronic voting to more voters with the aim of seeing two thirds of the cantons use electronic voting by 2019;
- Seamless electronic reporting of VAT to be able by 2019;
- A systematic transfer of legal knowledge between the public bodies to be established by the end of 2019.
Featured image by dencg via Shutterstock.com.