- Notes from the Federal Palace
Convenient access to e-government services
E-government provides the Swiss Abroad with easy access to government services – regardless of time zone or the geographical distance from Switzerland.
In 2020, Switzerland’s federal government, cantons and municipalities will adopt a new e-government strategy that will see the country’s public authorities provide information and services primarily online (digital first).
Embracing a digital future
However, many digital services will only work if users can access them properly and securely. In view of this, Switzerland is preparing to introduce a government-recognised electronic identity (e-ID) scheme that will enable private individuals to identify themselves on the internet, manage their online business more easily and use e-government applications. A year ago, the Federal Council submitted its dispatch on the Federal Act on Electronic Identification Services (E-ID Act) to parliament. In its 2019 spring and summer sessions, parliament approved the division of responsibilities between public and private service providers as specified in the E-ID Act. Its final vote in favour came in the autumn session. The E-ID Act will become effective in 2021 at the earliest. As a result of e-IDs, public authorities will be able to offer digital services on an end-to-end basis. Consequently, we will no longer have to print out and sign the forms that we customarily fill out online and send by post along with the usual enclosures. Some individual cantons, for example, already offer the option of doing tax returns completely online. In the longer term, online tax returns will be possible in all cantons as well as at federal level.
Considerable confidence in e-government services
According to the 2019 National E-Government Study, around 66 per cent of the population and just under 75 per cent of businesses trust online government services with regard to personal privacy and data protection. However, demand for online government services generally outstrips supply at federal, cantonal and municipal level. For example, 68 per cent of those surveyed believe that e-voting should be made available to everyone, despite the fact that only two per cent of voters have been able to take advantage of e-voting so far.
According to the 2019 National E-Government Study, e-voting is one of Switzerland’s most in-demand online government services.
E-voting currently unavailable
Until recently, cantons that wanted to offer e-voting could either use the Swiss Post platform or the e-voting solution developed by the canton of Geneva. However, Geneva decided to discontinue its system with immediate effect in June 2019, while Swiss Post announced in July 2019 that it would pull its existing system and focus instead on developing a new one. Switzerland is therefore currently bereft of e-voting (see also “Swiss Review” 5/2019). The Federal Council, for its part, decided in June 2019 to provisionally forgo introducing electronic voting as the third regular voting channel. It has postponed the partial revision that was scheduled for the Political Rights Act. The federal government expects the e-voting testing process to be reoriented by the end of 2020 in consultation with the cantons. Meanwhile, a cross-party committee is currently collecting signatures for an initiative calling for an e-voting moratorium.
As part of the E-Government Switzerland strategic plan, the Confederation, cantons and municipalities remain committed to e-voting and want to continue expanding e-government infrastructure to take our country into the digital future. This means making interaction with public authorities easier and less time-consuming for people living both in and outside Switzerland.
Representing the Confederation, cantons and municipalities, E-Government Switzerland is a body that is working to expand e-government services. It manages, plans and coordinates joint e-government activities at the three government levels. www.egovernment.swiss