Tech Trends 2022: A government perspective for Switzerland

Deloitte recently considered their global Tech Trends 2022 report through the lens of government and explored firstly, which trends may be most relevant for governments and secondly, the levels of readiness to take advantage of them. Six trends emerged as the most relevant over the next 18-24 months:

  •  Data sharing made easy
  • Cloud goes vertical
  • Blockchain: Ready for business
  • Cyber AI: Real defence
  • IT, disrupt thyself: Automating at scale
  • The tech stack goes physical

On the back of the global study, Deloitte Switzerland looked more closely into the relevance of these key trends for government in Switzerland, the level of readiness within the Swiss public administration to adopt them and some activities that are already underway across the federal government, cantons and municipalities.

While the potential value that can be unlocked by sharing data has long been known, COVID-19 made this even more abundantly clear. Globally, data-sharing capabilities played a critical role in helping government agencies, hospitals, pharmacies and drug makers coordinate and execute critical health care programmes such as vaccinations, amongst others.

However, despite it becoming increasingly important for government in Switzerland to be able to coordinate and share data across institutions, and with the private sector, so far there has only been a mixed degree of success in this area. While the federal strategy, eHealth Schweiz 2.0 (adopted in 2018) prioritises as one of its overarching goals – coordinating digitisation of the health system to enable the multiple use of data and infrastructures, progress has been slow.

For example – during COVID-19, apart from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and Canton of Zurich agreeing on cooperation regarding contact data management of air travellers from Covid 19 risk areas – other proof points of successful digital cooperation have been few and far between. In fact, the exchange of data between hospitals, the cantons and the federal government has remained a consistent source of concern during the corona crisis. Apart from being unable to ensure data protection – the system has also been unable to provide accurate information for resource planning, or for monitoring the number of confirmed infections. Doctors and laboratories were obliged to report positive results via outdated procedures such as fax, resulting in the government struggling to record case reports.

This experience has illustrated how important it is for service providers and public administration in Switzerland to improve their data sharing abilities across all public service levels (federal Government, cantons and municipalities) and beyond.

As cloud vendors provide more modularised, vertical-specific business services, there will be more possibilities to configure and assemble systems. As a result, governments around the world will be able to evaluate legacy applications and portfolios against more modern technological capabilities, that they can choose to adopt and build on.

Government in Switzerland has already recognised that Cloud services are an important component in building the infrastructures required for the digital transformation of the federal administration.

The Cloud strategy of 2020 provides for the orderly, secure and efficient use of private and public cloud services and there is clear recognition that cloud services offer the potential to vastly improve innovation and agility within the Swiss public administration. Data protection is an important and critical component of the strategy.

The recent WTO procurement ‘Public Clouds Bund’ makes it possible for the federal government to obtain highly scalable cloud services flexibly in the future. Access to services from five large cloud providers (Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba) that offer cost-effective and highly scalable infrastructure and platform services – as well as a wide range of the latest technologies and services – has been secured. This latest development is aligned with the increasing need of Swiss government departments to provide economic and innovative administrative services for the benefit of the population and the economy.

With security and privacy always a priority, evaluation of a national ‘Swiss Cloud’ – an independent public services technical infrastructure – continues to be investigated. Such a cloud could potentially meet requirements for increased data sovereignty if necessary and reduce dependency on international cloud providers.

Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT’s) are changing the nature of doing business across organisational boundaries. Enterprises, including governments, are increasingly finding new and creative ways to improve productivity and create new value streams using these technologies.

Some Swiss cantonal administrations have been early adopters of cryptocurrency and blockchain services. The canton of Zug aspires to lead by example in a region that has become a hub for the financial technology (Fintech) sector in the country. For example – Zug already accepts cryptocurrencies for tax payments, offers blockchain-based eIDs and has conducted eVoting pilots.

The blockchain-based digital IDs offered to citizens of Zug is an alternative to identity management services provided by internet companies. People register for their IDs through the uPort app and an online portal, confirm that they are a resident of Zug and – once approved – their identity is publicly attested on the Ethereum blockchain.

In another example, Schaffhausen eID+ allows cantonal residents to set up an electronic identity on their smartphone and have the data officially confirmed – this then allows secure and easy access to various electronic government services, without additional logins and passwords. The early adopters of blockchain and DLT’s hope to attract both domestic and foreign firms, as well as increased investment, by making it easier to set up a business in these locations and enable employees to access local government services.

However, these few municipal and cantonal examples remain single use cases. Further adoption of Blockchain and DLT’s is expected, as a result of the Federal Council bringing the Federal Act on the Adaptation of Federal Law to Developments in Distributed Electronic Register Technology (DLTA), fully into force in 2021.

The increase in cyberattacks globally means governments need to be even more vigilant than before. The volume and sophistication of attacks requires governments to increasingly consider the capabilities of Cyber AI to respond faster and more proactively and, to automate attack detection and response.

In response to the increase in cyberattacks, in April 2018, the Federal Council adopted the ‘National Strategy for Protecting Switzerland against Cyber Risks (NCS) 2018-2022’. By early 2019 a competence centre for cybersecurity was created and in 2020 the Ordinance on Protection against Cyber Risks came into force and established the National Center for Cybersecurity (NCSC). The NCSC is the competence centre for cybersecurity and serves as the first contact point for cyber issues for businesses, public administrations, educational institutions and the general public.

Until recently, the federal administration has seldom used AI technologies purposefully for cybersecurity. However, in light of increased cyberattacks, the role of AI with deep/machine learning powered systems is increasingly recognised by the government – for both the detection of cyber threats, as well as for testing and prevention of cyberattacks. Design of a competence network AI, commenced in mid 2020 and is a key step towards establishing a broad base of AI expertise that can be used quickly and cost-effectively and will also contribute to the attractiveness of Switzerland as a location.

The trend of migrating away from manual administration systems towards a combination of engineering, automation and self-service, means governments will increasingly be able to manage complex systems more effectively and improve the customer experience through improved availability and resilience.

In Switzerland, the government has already set up a new centre of expertise – the Digital Transformation and ICT Steering Sector (DTI) – to coordinate the approach to digital transformation in the federal administration. The aim is for business processes to be better integrated and data to be better used within the administration – as well as deploying ICT applications as economically and efficiently as possible. Administrative units can now choose between different specifications of standard services – currently these include data communication, office automation, directory services, federal identity and access management (IAM Bund) and GEVER (business management system). Additional services are planned.

While the federal office automation program has already harmonised the different technical and organisational areas of office automation (OA) in the administration, it has become clear that cloud services will play an increasingly important role going forward. The Cloud Enabling OA (CEBA) project has been launched to investigate the various implications of using cloud services.

Within government, GEVER serves as an example of automation at scale. Its purpose is to electronically manage the business-relevant information that is generated by the various administrative units – including file management, process management and business control. This digital management system forms the basis for continuous and automated inter-organisational and cross-system business processes.

Increased automation of physical tasks as well as numbers of smart devices means the rapidly evolving tech stack requires the highest levels of system uptime and resilience, as well as a fresh approach to governance and oversight. Government IT functions will increasingly need to manage the devices, set standards, provide security and support implementations.

Several cities in Switzerland are currently investing in ICT infrastructures that will connect ‘smart devices’ with organisations and people. LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) technology currently exists in 8 Swiss cities and forms part of several ‘smart city’ strategies/plans. (for example – Zurich, Schaffhausen, St. Gallen, Aarau etc.). Swiss cities are also expanding their network and exchanging ideas with each other through initiatives such as the Smart City Hub Switzerland.

As part of its Smart City strategy, the City of Zurich focuses on smart networks that connect data and sensors, and applications that facilitate new, more efficient solutions for users, as well as for operating infrastructures. The aim is to connect people, organisations or infrastructures in such a way as to create social, ecological or economic added value. These stronger networks will encourage contact between the population and the administration and foster opportunities for participation.

The Electricity Service ewz of City of Zurich has implemented a citywide LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) based on the fibre-optic network. The LoRa network is a technical basis for various Smart City and Internet of Things applications and enables the collection of data or information in a simple and cost-efficient manner. Pilot projects on the measurement of air quality, water levels and other water parameters – as well as the management of parking spaces (Smart Parking) have already been conducted. Learnings from the pilots have provided valuable insights for construction of the LoRa network and the development of a LoRaWAN service.

Other examples include: The smart city strategy of the city of Schaffhausen which aims to – through the use of digitisation and new technologies – position Schaffhausen as a liveable and sustainable city in the future. The city of St. Gallen has completed the pilot project ‘Smartnet’ which tested long-range radio technology (Lora). Based on evidence of high reliability, cost-effective hardware, long service life and encryption technology – ‘Smartnet’ is now an essential cornerstone for the goal of St. Gallen becoming a smart city.

Government in Switzerland appears to be well positioned as it prepares to harness the latest technology trends, for the benefit of citizens. Some of the solutions have already been implemented, albeit more in silos or as single use cases. While cantonal progress differs, there appears to be an increasing number of federal frameworks in place which locations can use to build their strategies. As an early trend participant in areas like cloud services and blockchain in some municipalities and cantons, there are definite advantages to be gained for the entire Swiss public administration. However, data sharing capabilities remains a source of concern and will be a key foundational element that needs to be fixed in order to optimise the other accelerating technology trends that government will encounter in the near future. The main challenge for digitalisation in the public sector remains to harness the potential across all public service levels (federal Government, cantons and municipalities).

Discover more about the report on Deloitte Insights

As with each edition of our annual Tech Trends report, this is part of an ongoing discussion in an ever-evolving field. Our goal is to provide you with pointers to better engage with constituents, make informed decisions, and do more with less. We hope these ideas will help inform and guide your thinking as you explore opportunities to innovate and improve.

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