eGovernment services are on the rise

The Swiss population would like to see standardised digital services in the public sector across the country

People in Switzerland rate the offer of digital services in the public sector (eGovernment) as progressive. However, there is still room for improvement compared to other countries. According to the latest Deloitte Digital Government Survey 2020, the Swiss prefer nationwide and standardised digital solutions and want more and better digital services for administrative tasks such as passport matters, purchasing vignettes or paying parking fines, as well as increased e-voting options.

A good four-fifths of Swiss citizens surveyed (79%) rate the digital offering of the public sector in Switzerland as either “very” (18%) or “rather" progressive (61%). Above-average numbers of women, young people and city dwellers are represented here. This is the result of a survey conducted by Deloitte Switzerland on the digital transformation of the public sector.

Of the administrative employees surveyed, 17% rate the external services as “very” and 62% as “rather” progressive. The external services of the federal, cantonal and municipal administrations are rated more often as “not very progressive” than, for example in the health and social services or traffic and transport sectors.

How progressive is your employer regarding the provision of external digital services (e.g. online forms, digital correspondence or digital payments)?

Overall, however, the population and administrative staff also find that there is still room for improvement when it comes to digitalisation in the public sector. For example, 21% of respondents rate the range of digital services in Switzerland as “not very” or “not at all” progressive.

Looking across national borders, it is clear that there is a gap between the self-image of the Swiss population and the real status quo when assessing the Swiss offering of digital solutions in an international context. International comparative studies on eGovernment such as the National eGovernment Study 2019 show that Switzerland still has potential to improve its services’ digitalisation.

Denmark as a pioneer: One ID number for all e-Services

In Denmark, for example, the digitalisation of administrative services for citizens began as early as the late 1960s: In 1968, the country introduced a central electronic register of citizens. Every citizen was assigned an identification number, which is still the basis of all digital services today. Using this personal number, Danes can easily log into the portal where they are offered a wide range of government services including registering a change of residence, filing a tax return, applying for social assistance – all of which can be accomplished with just a few clicks on a computer, mobile phone or tablet. The ID number can also be used to retrieve personal health data and use online banking services.

The digitalisation of administrative services is very efficient and cost-effective for the Danish government. The Ministry of Finance estimates that the state will save around 300 million euros per year through these eGovernment services. A large majority of Danish citizens have accepted these services: over 80% of the communication between public administrative staff and citizens takes place electronically. More than 90% of Danes use the so-called “E-Boks”, an electronic mailbox for every citizen over the age of 15 in which digital letters from authorities arrive, can be answered and signed from there.

The Swiss want more digital eGovernment solutions – including personal topics such as taxes

In Switzerland, the number of digital services users in the public sector is high. After all, according to our survey, 89% are familiar with digital tax services (e.g. the electronic submission of tax returns) and 72% have already used them. A further 68% of respondents are familiar with digital services related to personal registration (e.g. obtaining an extract from the debt enforcement register online) and 55% have already used them. By contrast, digital services relating to a person's residence, such as online registration and de-registration or electronic identification, but also vehicle-related services (e.g. redeeming number plates) are somewhat less known and are not yet widely used. However, this is where there seems to be a future need: 76% would like to receive digital services relating to their vehicles and 74% relating to their place of residence.

Digital services relating to taxes and personal registers are the most well-known and currently the most widely used; in the future, there will be digital demand for vehicles and homes.

However, the majority of the Swiss population would also like to see new digital services that go beyond the already well-known and well-used digital services, for example for obtaining vignettes, paying parking fines, e-voting and ordering passports/IDs. Over 81% “strongly” or “rather” favour the possibility of obtaining motorway vignettes in electronic form and 80% “strongly” or “rather” favour the possibility of paying for parking fines with contactless payment options. In addition, 78% support the possibility of voting via e-voting and 77% support the possibility of ordering passports/IDs completely online.

Other digital services are less popular. The lowest level of support is for an automatic collection of tax-relevant data by the government to prepare tax returns (62% “strongly” or “rather”), the possibility of filing police reports online (67%) and the ability to legally sign documents digitally (68%). Despite these figures, it should be emphasised that over 60% of the Swiss population can imagine digital solutions even for very personal matters such as tax data.

Do you support new digital services offered by public authorities / the public administration?

Standardised digital solutions throughout Switzerland are preferred

The success of the Danish model was certainly due to the fact that the government started with basic services that citizens wanted. According to the eGovernment Benchmark 2020 Study of the European Commission, Switzerland was able to improve its eGovernment offering in most of the main indicators examined compared to previous years. Switzerland still lags behind when it comes to precisely these basic services. A digital mailbox for electronically dispatching information and documents between the government and its citizens or companies is still not well established. In addition, a state-recognised electronic identity is not yet available and very few authorities offer the service of pre-populating forms with existing data.

However, the regulatory conditions for a functioning federal system in Switzerland are much more complex and demanding than in the international comparison, including when setting up new digital services. Some 2,200 municipalities, 26 cantons and the federal government all have different responsibilities and autonomies. Four national languages have to be fully integrated, and the culturally highly level of privacy in Switzerland, including the associated data protection, is of the utmost priority.

Yet the vast majority of the Swiss population would like to see more digitalisation of administrative departments as well as standardised digital solutions across Switzerland. Between 70% and 80% of respondents support this - 74% voted for the standardised electronic transmission of tax data across Switzerland, 75% for online number plate redemption and 76% for online residential registration and de-registration. With 79% and 80% respectively, the top spots included the desire for an electronic identification service with an e-ID and for an online personal registration account.

Do you generally prefer digital services from public authorities / the public administration to be provided as standardised solutions across Switzerland (or identical solutions in all Cantons) or Cantonal digital solutions (or services that differ from Canton to Canton)?

The extent to which a legal basis will be created for the electronic identification service with an e-ID for example depends on the voters: A referendum was held against the Federal Act on Electronic Identification Services (BGEID), which was supported by the Federal Council and Parliament. Not only does the law promise the possibility of simple but secure identification on the Internet, but also strict controls in the certification of technology providers and expanded data protection. The law is intended to serve as a key element for the further digitalisation of Swiss government services.

The federal government, cantons and municipalities have been working on digitalising government services for years. Often, however, the electronic channels still exist in parallel as an alternative to the analogue channel. To accelerate the transformation to digital administration, those responsible want to make these electronic channels so attractive in the future that they will become the first choice for the population and the economy – in line with the country’s “Digital First” strategy. The majority of the Swiss population is in favour of this, which is why this potential should be fully exhausted. Standardised and secure throughout Switzerland.

The journey to digital transformation in the Public Sector

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