For the last twenty years or more, we have been talking about the transition from an information society to a knowledge society.
One of the main points of the strategy of the Lisbon Treaty was precisely to evoke the need to facilitate and accelerate this transition, to make an embryonic reality effective and efficient. During these years, Europe and Switzerland, always attentive to the European dimension that surrounds it, have worked to make this happen.
Information and communication technology was conceived as an opportunity:
- to amplify the capacity of citizens to act;
- to strengthen cross-border relations and
- to develop a society characterized by cultural diversity into an open and inclusive society.
The main objective was not simply the creation of new rights and duties, but was characterized by an expansion of information policy, inclusion of citizens, improved information and discussion policy, barrier-free access to the Web, and also improved political control through the use of proper archiving through advanced documentation systems.
The term eGovernment, therefore, means simplification.
The focus is on electronic services and all public operations aimed at citizens (such as taxation, social facilities, employment service, social security, identity cards, health services, etc.) and businesses (taxes, statistical offices, customs declarations, environmental performance, public procurement, etc.).
Within this framework of common goals, Switzerland has been working for a long time (and also very quickly and lucidly), exploiting the advantages of ICT (information and communication technologies) to perform its tasks in a modern, service-oriented manner.
In this context, the Confederation, the cantons, and the municipalities have defined the Swiss eGovernment Strategy 2020-2023 and the objectives to be pursued jointly in the field of digitalization. This is by no means a new topic: in 2008 the first joint eGovernment Strategy came into force: a catalog of projects aimed at initiating a course of innovation and modernization of the society within a common goal. For this purpose, the Confederation, the cantons, and the communes founded a joint organization, “eGovernment Switzerland”, which is managed by political representatives of all three state levels. The competencies of this organization are defined in the framework agreement under public law on cooperation in the field of eGovernment between the parties called upon to cooperate. This agreement also regulates the financing of joint projects by means of a credit provided half each by the Confederation and the cantons. To date this body is responsible for the implementation of the eGovernment Strategy Switzerland 2020-2023.
Then, in 2016, in the midst of thinking about how to strengthen and improve the decision-making and technical structure, a new strategy and framework agreement came into effect that placed greater emphasis on joint activities and provided for more timely financial aid that was more in line with the needs of applicants.
It must be underlined that Switzerland has the largest mobile phone network and the highest density of broadband connections in the world. These are very important and indispensable infrastructures for the diffusion and use of digital services offered by the authorities. All in a perspective of openness and transparency, exchange and collaboration. Digitization also entails many changes for society as a whole. The Swiss State assumes a dynamic role in this path, activating itself:
- to promote internal understanding of new technologies and their impact on individuals and the environment
- to develop knowledge and skills for the use of new digital working methods
- to enable cultural change at all administrative levels,
having clear goals trust, knowledge, and the need for cultural change.
Let us then summarize and schematize here the Principles that move the decisions of the Swiss authorities in order to implement by 2030 the e-government strategy as implemented and designed:
- Services and information must be as appropriate as possible for the target audience. This means that they must be easy to use, standardized and efficient from the point of view of resource consumption, with the aim of taking the needs of users into the utmost consideration;
- Processes must be automated and seamless: the aim is to transmit data on interfaces in case of recurring processes, this to make the relationship with the recipient user manageable;
- Common data management: The Confederation, cantons, and municipalities organize their registers so that the population and businesses need to enter data only once, this implies that the data entered once, applies to the next, all with a considerable saving of energy, resources, and quality.
Even in a beautiful lawn lush with daisies, however, crabgrass lurks. The challenges are many and error remains around the corner. The Internet offers many advantages for communication, data exchange, and information, both for citizens and administration; however, Internet services can be a breeding ground for abuse, so here the challenge becomes enormous and the guard cannot drop.
We leave below a small overview of the major dangers and risks in order to remain vigilant and predisposed to reasoning:
- The digital divide: society is divided into citizens who have access to the www and citizens who do not have it;
- Information overload: the network is growing rapidly and the tools for Web content to master are countless: the citizen often feels drowned in the sea of information and knows little about the means and ways to protect themselves;
- The quality of information: this is a huge challenge! Teach the citizen the difference between accurate and obscure content. Quality assurance is an important aspect;
- The violation of privacy: the risk is the degradation of the citizen to a transparent human being;
- The Web is unfortunately also a ground trampled by criminals: another challenge to think about.