The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17 to 21 December 2017. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
(No audio at beginning of session)
>> PHILIPP METZGER: To capture the digital challenges that were ahead of us, and most and above all, the digital opportunities, and I think that was a major point of consensus when we spoke to stakeholders, that they all felt, national stakeholders, that we were rather cautious in approaching the new information society and digital world that we were focusing very much on risks, and that the entire setup that we had was very rigid. Also very focused on silos in a sense and not really going beyond the borders in the different stakeholder groups.
And of course, what did not help at the outset was the fact that we came from a rather comfortable point of departure. In terms of where we stood as a country, as a society in terms of the well‑being, in terms of the wealth. We have very good education system. We have good infrastructures. We have a multi‑cultural society with a very, I would say, well‑working direct democracy. And so I think people in general can tend to become rather content in such a setup. And I think that was an important point of departure to identify where actually there was potential for us at Switzerland to move on.
And more than that, where there were tracks that we could fall into if we didn't fully embrace a more comprehensive approach to digitisation. And that recognition I think led us to the process that ultimately culminated in 2016 into adoption of the strategy of "Digital Switzerland," and maybe just to use one phrase that we heard recently at our national conference, on "Digital Switzerland" to which I will refer to in a minute. We had somebody looking at us from the outside, from Estonia, and I think the question he put to us is where is your pain point? Where do you find the pain that will make you move in the right direction when it comes to seizing the opportunities and dealing with digitisation in the future.
So I think that was sort of the ground on which we developed a strategy. It was clear that the opportunities had to be center stage. Of course, there are a number of challenges that we are addressing as well, but certainly for a country like Switzerland, which has been also sometimes rather cautious in embracing not only technologies, but new phenomena in general, I think that was an important aspect of recognition.
And so on that basis, we discussed intensively with stakeholders where we should put our priorities. I mean, the strategy that has the ambition of being (?) in terms of digital development for a country contemplates everything at the same time, especially if you link it up with an action plan.
And so we try to identify key objective areas, and you will see that from the second slide, these types of aspects. I'm not sure whether it's too small or if you can see it from where you are. But we wanted to focus basically on eight key target areas that were going to be challenges for us going forward for the next year or two, maybe three, because I think the other aspect that is very important in the strategy is that I think we have given up any hopes or any illusions that you can develop such a strategy, and then have it cast in stone for, I don't know, three, four, or even a ‑‑ three or four years or even a longer period.
That's not working anymore. It doesn't work overall for society with the digital phenomenon. It doesn't work for government. We're experiencing that ourselves. We have to be much more nimble, much more flexible, and so I think the thought of a strategy that was giving an overall frame to society, per se, but in a sense, that is all‑encompassing. This is not a top‑down strategy. It's bottom‑up and of course has elements also where the government bears responsibilities, because we clearly found out that whilst we want to see the opportunities, whilst we want to give freedom to digitisation, we also clearly need a framework, an overall framework, and that's what citizens in Switzerland expect from us, which gives them security and trust as well.
I think to have developed trust in digital technologies, to develop trust and confidence in using these new tools is a prerequisite for seizing opportunities, and I think the time where you can simply say we will put everything out in the markets with no regulations, absolutely no strings attached, I don't think this is a viable solution for the long‑term.
We do recognise that space has to be given to digital also experiments, I think at different levels. But, at the same time, there is clearly a case for leadership, for political leadership, but for a leadership that is listening and that is engaging and that develops the strategy in a multi‑stakeholder way. And that's sort of the DNA of our strategy that you see in a sort of more symbolic way presented here with the key action areas. But then also clearly reflecting the stakeholder groups that we are engaging with on a day‑by‑day basis.
So I don't have time to go into substance. Certainly for us, the entire issue of usage of data, big data going forward with a new key component, but I think the other very central element of the strategy is the dialogue. I mentioned that we can't do strategies for four years or longer, so the dialogue has to be permanent, and what we have seen, of course, before the strategy was adopted by the government, but certainly also since then, is that I would say an encouraging level of increasing engagement by stakeholders.
We are, of course, aware that a number of stakeholders are not yet there. They haven't maybe recognised the challenges or the opportunities that are around the corner for them, but we see in Switzerland, also at the decentralised level, of course, also amongst the different stakeholders groups, and it's quite clear that our very highly ranked universities that we have in Switzerland, especially also the technical universities have been precursors for that a long time ago. But those players will be ‑‑ will play an instrumental part in our strategy as well, which, again, should be something which is an alive strategy, something that the government regularly in rather frequent rhythms looks at, and what we did now in November 2016, I mentioned this national conference earlier, we gathered the most relevant stakeholders ‑‑ the stakeholders we had been in contact with, the stakeholders that were known to us that had made themselves known, that were coming forward to be engaged in this process, and we took stock of where the strategy stood after only 18 months, which for us is a relatively short time.
The idea is that with this stock taking, which, of course, is only a point of culmination of a lot of dialogues, a lot of discussions, a lot of actions. Also a lot of initiatives like the one we're going to hear about from Mr. Bugion in a minute. But what does it mean for the reshaping of this digital strategy by the government.
So what we are now going to do in 2018 is structure all the inputs and the output and all the expressions of areas that need to be developed more in digitisation. Put that to the government with a new reworking of the strategy, and so forth. So this is not a one‑off exercise we're doing. This is something that we're going to do in a repetitive way, and which, of course, could very well lead also to a completely new framework at some stage, if we find out that with the strategy we have, we're no longer on the right track. So that in a nutshell, what I wanted to tell you in terms of where we're coming from. Why do we have such a strategy. What is in its DNA. And what do we want to achieve in the future.
And I would then be happy to engage in the discussion later on and give the floor back to you, Mr. Beglinger.
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: Thank you very much, Philipp Metzger. Before we go on, let us keep in mind, so we have a strategy. The strategy is not cast in stone. It needs evolvement. It's a multi‑stakeholder strategy in the sense that there was a dialogue in developing it and also taking care of possibly all possible actors and aspects, and now let's have a look at one particular aspect, the aspect of the entrepreneurial aspect.
With that, I want to welcome Edouard Bugion, Vice President of the EPFL. At an earlier time, he was in a real high‑tech environment. He went to the U.S. One of the founders of VN there, and after that VP. But after that, President and Chief Technology Officer. Five years ago, he came back to Switzerland and is now trying to make sure that the ivory tower in Lausanne and entrepreneurial spirit comes together for the benefit of this country.
Thank you very much, Edouard.
>> EDOUARD BUGION: Thank you very much. I'm not sure how many ivory towers we have in Switzerland in academia, but I don't think there's actually one in Lausanne. We're actually very connected to the real world, to technology transfer and innovation. I won't speak for the other institutions.
I'm here representing the other Digital Switzerland. To avoid any confusion, there are actually two "Digital Switzerland." There's the strategy by the government, and then there is a non‑profit association called ‑‑ to avoid and to create confusion, the "Digital Switzerland." I represent the association "Digital Switzerland," the government strategy. The association obviously advises the government on its own "Digital Switzerland" strategy.
So if we go to the next slide, what you basically see are the current members of the association Digital Switzerland. I represent EPFL, that's where I work. This basically has the who's who, it includes companies, Swiss companies, companies headquarter in Switzerland. Foreign companies that have a substantial presence in Switzerland or have a substantial business in Switzerland. It includes a lot of the academic partners in the medical institutions and the key humanitarian stakeholders that are based in land.
If you're a part of Civil Society based in Switzerland and your employer is not represented here, you can always talk to us after this session.
Our mission is ‑‑ if we go to the next slide, our mission is around four observations. The first one is we have observed the need to rethink and strengthen the Swiss economy in the context of this new reality. And what does this new reality mean? I think one way to look at this is Switzerland is known for a number of things and one of them are the boundary conditions that we provide for independent business, in private business. It is the political stability, the economic stability. It is the administrative efficiency that we provide to our constituents and to our companies.
And these (?) were largely developed in a world where digitisation as we understand it today did not exist. And so one of the challenges is to strengthen the Swiss economy in the context of the development of these new boundary conditions, some of which may be formalised by us, and this is actually one of the most challenging aspects of this, are actually formalised and developed de facto by others in a highly multi‑stakeholder environment.
Digital Switzerland itself is a nationwide initiative. We have a presence in all substantial geographic portions of Switzerland. EPSO is on the committee of the national initiative and is also deeply involved in the French speaking side of the initiative.
This is not limited or tied to any particular vertical area of interest. In fact, one of the things that we see is the opportunity to bring together people who would not normally talk to each other who are brought together because of this digital transformation. This is one of the fundamental themes, is creativity will come out and disruption will emerge as a result of digitisation. It's very, very important to have people who wouldn't ‑‑ not imagine they have anything to do with each other, to actually revisit and challenge that position in light of digitisation.
And then the last one is to create a little bit of a leverage and to be united and to make this transformation.
If you go to the next slide.
The way we sort of have organised our association and our initiatives is around these five pillars, and I'll go through them one by one. The political framework needs to change. We have a system of semidirect democracy that many countries in the world envy. That is premised on having a very deep and constant interaction between the citizen and the people. That used to be done through effectively proximity (?) and as we know digitisation is impacting democracy. It's been proven in many countries that outside forces can actually influence democratic process. And this is one of the examples of sort of the threat to ‑‑ or the impact of digitisation on our way of life.
There is a substantial effort going into the education aspect. We need to train and retrain our workforce. Not just students and young adults, which is the primary business of my institution, but also throughout their lives, which is why EPFL is now starting, for example, an extension school to retrain the current workforce in the context of these new technologies.
Digitisation is a huge opportunity. There's tremendous amount of innovation and technology transfer in Switzerland and there's focus on start‑ups in the digital world. Many of the start‑ups around the world have emerged because of the digital and the digitisation opportunity, and so the support for start‑ups is to leverage this opportunity.
I'll skip the thought leadership, because this is one of the most interesting ones, and I actually have a slide on this later.
And lastly, we're involved in a lot of the public communication. Because we're a system and a society of somewhat direct democracy, it is very important that we communicate broadly about the theme. This is not something that can be top‑down. It has to be broadly understood, which is why we're involved in a number of initiatives, and there was actually a very important event, for those of you who were not in Switzerland in November, after the digital day where the initiative of the government was presented, which was really explaining some of the opportunities associated with digitisation.
If we go to the next slide, I want to show you one example of one of those thought leadership challenges that we have run as Digital Switzerland. And it's sort of an example of what we can do and what our mission is as an association bringing together different stakeholders. It's the idea around block chain. We ran a workshop to see how block chain can actually help business.
Block chain is actually one of those fundamental enabling technologies which allows us ‑‑ forces us to rethink what we mean by transparency, privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of data processing, things that our concepts are not typically formalised in either in law or in the administrative framework. But it's a tremendous opportunity for efficiency in these interactions between businesses or between businesses and the administration.
And if you actually look at the stakeholders in that workshop, we have people representing the technology space, representing the commercial carriers, the Swiss commercial carrier, as well as the commercial registry offices of three of our (?) in Switzerland. It's an example of basically bringing people who are not otherwise spontaneously working with each other on a particular key of technology.
And then the other example, again one of those challenges that we run is in the area of health. Switzerland is a country that is ‑‑ takes privacy extremely seriously. And so where the notion of the transportation of medical data is something that is very sensitive politically. But it's also one that is potentially foundational for a number of key innovation and medical breakthroughs and practices if it's done well.
And so this is another example of putting together stakeholders that may not work spontaneously with each other. Some of them may actually have adversarial goals or objectives. And this is a very, very broad list that have looked together at a particular idea which is to basically see how this makes sense to share data in a privacy conscious way and a secure way in a particular ‑‑ for a particular disease, which in this case, is (?)
And then my last point on the next slide is just to give a little bit of color on one of the big initiatives of the association. It was on November 21st, so the day after the Federal Government's digital strategy was launched, and this was an event that basically was done in train stations and in trains, which is the core pipe that connects the Swiss together, involves three of our federal counselors and to substantial success and media coverage.
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: Thank you very much, Edouard Bugion.
Let us be clear. So we have a government strategy, and at the same time, we have also some kind of a private strategy where this is all‑encompassing, or taking into account 80% of the industry or Civil Society. Doesn't matter. But there are some kind of friendly competing strategies, which is probably typical of growing in the context of how Switzerland ticks, which is that top‑down, yes, that's in every state. But there is also bottom‑up, and it's a powerful bottom‑up.
And while trying to bring things together, this is the challenge for Switzerland. But I think everybody is convinced this this is one of the ways how to bring things in a peaceful way to others. There may be guidance from above, but it's also a push from below.
Now, if this were not enough, Switzerland is a confederate state. Now, what are these little republics? For example, the Republic of Geneva into all of that. The Republic of Geneva, which has its own constitution, also thinks that it needs a say on a lower local level, and on that, we will hear Alexander Barclay.
Alexander Barclay, (?) the Norwegian School of Economics in France. He built and ran a tech start‑up after university. Then he worked for general Secretariat of the Swiss Federal Finance Department, and now he's working on his digital policy at the GenéveLab. He also conducts research at the at the University of (?) and teaches in Paris.
Now, Alexander, tell us, where is room after it's already existing (?) and you must know that in Switzerland, we have 26 Cantons which may have their own digital strategy of their own, which we'll talk about later whether this is really good, or this can be managed, or whether it even needs to be managed. The floor is yours.
>> ALEXANDER BARCLAY: Thank you very much, Jacques. Just by show of hands, how many people in the room are from outside of Switzerland? Okay, so you're getting a good idea of how Switzerland works for this panel today.
Good afternoon to all. My name is Alexander Barclay. I'm a member of GenéveLab, and as such, I work for the state of Geneva, for the Canton of Geneva. I would like to thank Lorenzo and Philipp who have organised this panel today, for inviting the State of Geneva to be here today.
Jacques has just mentioned a few words about Swiss federalism. I would like to add a few points. Geneva is one of the 26 states of Switzerland, which we call Canton. You currently are in the Canton of Geneva, so congratulations and welcome, and this Canton is about half a million people, nearly half a million people out of the I believe 8.4 million inhabitants of the country.
Now, in the Swiss federal system, the Cantons have a lot of responsibilities, but are very directly inlinked and in interaction with the citizens. For instance, in the field of education, the field of social services, in the field of police and security, land planning, and so on.
We can move on to the next slide, please. Thank you.
So, as we've seen, digitisation touches all state activities. Many fields, many areas of our lives. And now recognising that digitisation is not just a topic for one department. It's not just a topic for the information technology department, but it's for all areas of the state, and so the state of Geneva decided to create this unit, this living lab, this digital innovation team, to support all of the administration's digital transformation, and that was in October 2016. The GenéveLab and the leadership of state council.
Now, it is naturally an unusual team for public administration in Switzerland. There are similar teams in other countries, and we do look to the UK, to Denmark, to France, to Finland for similar models. We are members of a European network of living labs to share best practices.
Now, the task of the company and digital transformation of administration sounds very big, especially for a team of five people within an administration of thousands. So how do we do it? And we can go on to the next slide. Before explaining how we do it, I just want to share this definition with you on digital, what do we mean when we say digital. This definition was proposed by Tom Loosemore.
Soling the is applying the culture, practices, processes, technologies of the Internet era to respond to people's raised expectations. We will surely discuss it right afterwards. In any case here, the idea is to go beyond shared technology and also its impact on culture, practices, and processes, and we can go on to the next slide.
So what do we mean when we say a living lab? So a living lab is an organisation that is user‑centered, but is based on an open innovation ecosystem, and uses systematic user co‑creation to prototype extremely fast solutions building on different disciplines. The appropriate methods we're referring to on this slide are mainly design thinking, and we work with an existing ecosystem on a local, national, and international level, including this European network.
We can go on to the next slide.
So who are our clients? Public administration is here to serve as a citizen as well as the companies present on the territory. Now, in our case, we serve internally our clients, our project manager, civil servants within the administration. We are their side kicks. We're here to help them do terrific projects that really help citizens.
So we have five key elements in our offering. The first one is events. We organise events where we gather senior civil servants to present emerging technologies and use cases in our administration. In our hub dimension, our key value is to basically link project managers to the skills or organisations they might profit from, so that can be a start‑up. That can be someone else within the administration that is working on a similar issue. So it's essentially match‑making, organising events, hack‑a‑thons, challenges.
Raising awareness includes trainings that we provide for senior officials, such as design thinking, introductory courses. And experimentation, we basically work on emerging technologies to say, for instance, chat box, what can we do, what is a potential, what are the risks, and what can we very quickly explore and then move on to an experimentation stage to build a prove of concept.
Now, these are nice words, and if we move to the next slide, I can mention four recent projects that are ongoing.
The first one is the state of Geneva provides a platform where any citizen can connect and upload their tax declaration, for instance. So that's the biggest use case, is uploading your tax declaration. Okay? You can naturally get other documents from it, but that's the one people know the most. From there, the main issue is how does every citizen receive an account and actually use it. So we're working with those responsible for exploring solutions in that regard.
The second case, the tax authority ‑‑ I'm sorry, I'm going back to taxes again, but it's an important issue for State, as we all know. The tax authority came to us and said, look, the generation of people born after 2000 are soon going to be of age to pay taxes and we don't know quite how to address them. How should we first reach out to them? Naturally, as an administration, the main idea would be, well, social media. So we organised the workshop with young people, and discussed that. Providing a channel to reach out to these people, and if you're interested in that, we can discuss it later on.
And a third example, the experimentation, he had like dimension as well. The state of Geneva is also a member of Digital Switzerland, which Mr. Bugion presented. So there are members of Digital Switzerland. Blocked in experimentation would be a commercial registry.
And lastly, on a broader and more strategic level, and here ‑‑ reacting to the question of Jacques. The State of Geneva is developing its own digital strategy.
We can go to the next one.
So, why? Well, every Ministry, every office develops its own strategy, works on their own field of competency, and that includes necessarily issues linked to digitalisation. So technology, e‑Government strategy that the State of Geneva has. There is the political will to have a digital strategy that aligns ‑‑ the key principle is used by all these different strategies concerned with digitalisation. It's basically recognising the need in digital masses and to define shared principles and a shared vision of where the state of Geneva wants to go in terms of digital technology.
This is an ongoing project that can't present yet the vision, because we are currently working on it. We're working on it with universities, with the technical schools present in Geneva, so to open up the doors and consult broadly. In fact, we're going to conduct an online consultation at the beginning of next year, so we're glad to speak with anyone interested in participating. We are working on the discussion that will go on afterwards around five key rules that the state of Geneva sees it has to play in regard to digital transformation, and those are issues around lifelong learning, protection, regulation, promotion, and facilitation.
Okay. This is all I'll say for now. Perhaps just the last slide is to say thank you very much. If you're interested in following up on what our team does, we are present on social media. Thank you very much.
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: Thank you very much, Alexander.
Now we have heard ‑‑ so there is not a real lack of strategy in Switzerland. But the strategy itself doesn't make necessarily already the world better. And you here in Geneva, or in Switzerland, you are society, so you have to live with whatever comes out.
Thankfully, we have Roxana Radu on the panel as well to maybe summarise how society in Switzerland should feel about these strategies. Are they good enough? If you look on her background, Roxana Radu is the Programme Manager at the Geneva Internet platform, GIP. She's a member of the board and currently chair of Internet Society, Switzerland's chapter. Her research and publication focus on international governance and policymaking, and she has received a Ph.D. with honours, political science from the Graduate Institute of Development Students. Her research is governance and global Internet.
So, Roxana, can such an open strategy make digital interruptions socially acceptable, or would the State have to invest much more actively in programmes and just bundle everything in a decent top‑down approach?
>> ROXANA RADU: Thank you very much for inviting me to be on this panel, for presenting the Civil Society. As you heard, I am working also in the international environment, so I will try to give a perspective that combines the national development in Switzerland and a bit of an outlook of international development.
I am here presenting Intersociety Switzerland. We are a non‑profit association founded in 2012, and we are working at the national level on anything that has to do with promoting, researching, and contributing to the evolution of the Internet. We have an open membership and multi‑stakeholder ‑‑ a lot of our members represent the technology sector and that is not surprising, even the excellent schools we had in Switzerland for that.
But also, about 30% of the members working in other fields that are nontechnical, and that allows us to have a very good overview of everything that is of concern at different levels in Switzerland.
With that, I would like to just move quickly to some of the points that are important for the strategy for us as Civil Society. First of all, the fact that this isn't a live strategy, as Mr. Metzger points it out, makes it easier for us to have the door open for constant communication, and I think this is really a key point, if we look at strategies elsewhere, it is not always that easy to create continuous dialogue, and we greatly appreciate that.
Secondly, I think one key point for us is the state's guards that are in place. Of course, more and more is online, information, be it jobs, be it risks. Everything is moving online. But here we have to be very cautious about providing a safety net for everyone to feel that their rights are not threatened in any way. And I think this is maybe the main challenge for the strategy, ensuring that throughout the next decade, the next 50 years, we are in a position to safeguard our digital rights, but also our offline rights.
With an example from the UK, you have seen probably the push against the data of patients being transferred to Google for automatic processing in the national health system in the UK by artificial intelligence. We would probably be very vocal against something like this happening in Switzerland. I think at the level of the strategy, we can already eliminate some of the concerns.
So one thing that is relevant in this dialogue is to make sure that we also learn from examples of other countries and we don't end up doing things that are extremely contested.
And maybe the third important aspect is one that I found quite (?) mainly the approach of technology as a life cycle. It is not ‑‑ as we are just consumers of technology, but we can think about sustainable ways to consume technology, to make use of it, to explore the opportunity that technology provides, and here how much of our devices have become redundant after just a few months in some cases, after a year or two in most cases. How we can think about having this in a sustainable way.
In France, there is already a law against technological obsolescence and manufacturers. This doesn't exist in Switzerland yet, but it's definitely a point for discussion in the near future, and this is where we learn from other countries and we can probably implement some of the things that we find useful from other experiences.
When it comes to whether this digital strategy makes the digital disruption more acceptable for society, it is definitely something that can no longer be very clearly divided. There is a digital disruption. There is also a societal disruption, and the two are probably going hand in hand. There is probably the need for having the most important dialogue of all in the near future, namely what kind of society we need to live in and we want to live in. Many things are happening to us. Technology is evolving very, very fast, but can we have the time and the space to sit down and discuss where we want to be in five years from now.
A lot of people that I talk to tell me, look, this is happening too fast. I don't even have time to think about what occupational intelligence means for my daily use of the computer, what does this mean, how is my data being processed in that, and I think what we as Civil Society would definitely be in favor of is just having this space to discuss the values, the ethical values of the society we want to live in.
At the Internet Society of Switzerland, we are running a set of workshops over the next two years called the Values of Internet Technologies, where everyone is invited to openly speak about what the concerns are, how we can ensure that some of the principles that make the Internet the great innovation that it is, can be maintained in this era of monopoly.
It's also a question of what we want to prioritize in our engagement online. So if you are based here and you would like to participate, approach me after the session and I can give you more details about it.
Thank you very much.
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: Thank you, Roxana.
May I just pass on the ball to Philipp Metzger. So what I heard from Roxana is that it's probably not enough, what we are doing here. They're disruptist technologies. Is it that the Swiss regulation is lazy in not doing more, or is it something that (?) that is the Swiss way of how we approach things? Also a hand raised over there.
>> PHILIPP METZGER: Thank you. I think that's the million‑dollar question, isn't it? How do you approach this from a governance perspective? I have still in my mind ‑‑ I was on a panel a year and a half ago, and I was challenged by the fact that we even ‑‑ that the government even opened up a strategy. I think a very imminent professor said to us he was shocked that there was a strategy by the government for this legislation. His point of view was that basically things work well, because government lets everything take its course, and then things will fall into place quite rightly.
I don't think that is a viable option going forward. I think there is expectations by the citizens that there is a step ‑‑ of course, digitisation offers those on many levels and that's something we are grappling with and we are going to have to get better at in dealing with.
Of course, it starts often with the mental attitude towards it. I mean, how open are you to that, and how much are you willing to engage in challenges. But I think we also ‑‑ if you talk about leadership qualities in the digital space, I think you can't dissociate it from the governance DNA that you have, and those who know Switzerland, this is not a country which has a strong top‑down leadership. This is a collective leadership. There is a lot of engagement between the stakeholders, between the federal levels, but also, of course, with the population directly, with the direct democracy. And I don't think it would be really promising to try now with this revolution that is happening at the scale that we've never seen before.
Now, if you try and change our own DNA, how we operate and turn everything upside down and say we now are going to nominate a digital czar, say, in the Swiss government and everything will fall into place. I know that there are other countries that are either taking a more top‑down stance, that are regulating more heavily a number of aspects of the digital phenomenon than here, but I think ultimately, we will have to find a solution that reflects also our own DNA.
I'm not saying by that we don't have to change. Of course, we have a slow pace, which is a challenge when it comes to legislation, for instance. But I think the leadership challenge that we have ahead of us is certainly something that we are trying to approach gradually and not with a big bang.
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: Do you agree or disagree?
>> AUDIENCE: Mostly I agree, but I'm afraid that there is a case or risk for obsolescence. This is a question I have. One can make a case that the national democracy under the threat of large groups like Facebook and Google. They've lost sense of communities that go beyond, are not within the national identity idea of community.
How concerned are you that external forces might be manipulating citizens of Switzerland by pursuing their own agenda, like we've seen in the United States during the American elections? And what measures can be taken, or what measures are taken in order to prevent that being a major factor on the dissolution of a local identity?
>> PHILIPP METZGER: Thank you. Of course, this is a key question for the functioning of our political system, and of course, we have identified a number of those phenomena. We've also looked more specifically at the whole impact of social media and what it would require in terms of, you know, legal basis legislation, and framework that applies to it. We've certainly found that there are a number of laws and rules already in place. And actually, if they're applied properly, and if they can be applied across the board, because often we have issues, phenomena of cross‑border nature here, then this will significantly stabilize the environment in which we're in. But, of course, in a ‑‑ especially in a direct democracy where the population votes four times a year on a number of issues of substance, and objective information, and a variety and the pluralism is particularly important. And I think that point or that key component of our political system is very well‑recognised, and I don't think we're at the point now where we would have to fear that from one day to the other, the entire decision‑making, decision‑shaping collapses.
But we need certainly firm pillars that we need to maintain or even maybe create in the future. I think there is a case also of engaging ‑‑ of asking yourself the question how you're engaging young citizens through new means in the political process, because they use different tools. They're not really any more operating the same way as we or maybe our ancestors did.
So I think there's maybe also a bit of a potential there to experiment, maybe sometimes at the local level, because that's often what we do. We have pilot cases. For instance, municipal or county level for digital processes when it comes to interaction between the citizen and the state.
At the same time, I think we will have to look well after our ‑‑ I would say very diverse media landscape as well, and also a landscape where we keep the balance so that minorities, be that linguistic, be that cultural minorities, also get a healthy degree of the information that they need to make up their minds.
So in that sense, I think we're relatively stable. We have recognised a number of challenges and, of course, we are challenged also when it comes to the media system. You may know there will be a referendum about that in March, and so I think that's what we're doing. We're looking at those things, we're working at them continuously. We're trying to make sure to preserve stability for the decision‑making process and the direct democracy on the one hand, and at the same time, I think we will try to look out for more modern ways of engaging through digital means with the citizens.
But that, of course, is also a very big challenge. We see debates on e‑voting, for instance, and that is typically something that I referred to earlier. I mean, the Swiss are not always the ones who throw everything over board they know and jump onto a new technology.
>> EDOUARD BUGION: I'll maybe just add a few words. Mr. Metzger obviously being part of the administration has ‑‑ is representing I think a view that ‑‑ an optimistic view, a realistic view of the system. I wanted to just add a little bit ‑‑ I'm not disagreeing with him, but I want to add a little bit of color purely from a strictly speaking technical perspective.
If I had been told a year ago the level of manipulation and the impact that that manipulation has had and the technical means by which that manipulation has occurred in much bigger democracies than Switzerland, I would not have believed it. I would have thought that this was a constructive scenario from some bad movie. The reality is we have evidence in other countries of extremely sophisticated forms of manipulation, using platforms that are never under the jurisdiction of our own country. And one of the challenges that we have here to be bugged is that the platforms that are used to shape the people's opinions are not under Swiss jurisdiction.
And even when they are under the same jurisdiction as the country involved, which is obviously United States, it is still extremely challenging to identify the root cause of the problem. If you go back to the issue of Russian manipulation and the way Facebook was used and abused and misused in the prior election, you'll realize how hard it is even for the Americans to get to the bottom of this issue.
The same thing can happen to us. We will never know. And this is I think the biggest concern that we have where we need ‑‑ and I'm purely looking at this ‑‑ this is purely a scientific engineering view of the facts that have been explained to me and as I understand them, is this is something that we did not as scientists, as engineers anticipate. And I'm looking at it purely as a technical question. It has nothing to do with the substance of the issue.
The set of questions that we will have that are surprising to scientists and engineers that actually are impacting our daily lives as citizens and human beings is a recurring theme, which is something we as scientists are not used to having and seeing. When you look into this from a scientific perspective, an engineering perspective, whatever you do in the lab has no impact on society for ten years, 15 years, 20 years, and now what we're seeing is things that are barely understood in the scientific community that have an immediate impact on our societies.
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: In Geneva with e‑voting, what is your view on e‑voting having heard what Edouard Bugion just said?
>> PHILIPP METZGER: Just two points in addition to what Mr. Bugion just said. I think we're all surprised to the degree and depth of the manipulation that we have experienced at a global scale recently. And I would like to point out two maybe concrete measures or two concrete also projects that are close to our hearts, precisely for that reason.
The first, I've hinted at it before, we need to get better with enforcement across jurisdictions. I think this is a major challenge for the digital space. It's not a coincidence that Switzerland has been one of the initial supporters of the jurisdiction ‑‑ the Internet jurisdiction project from early on. There will be another conference next year. And I think that is an absolutely fundamental challenge.
And the second point, of course, there are much bigger democracies, there are much bigger countries, much bigger corporations that we have in Switzerland, and that's why we believe ‑‑ we can't just, you know, create a protectionist system. I mean, protectionist is maybe not the right word in this context. But a system where we can keep everything out. We want to have an open and connected Switzerland. But I think we look at the diversity of the media system, how the opinion is informed and formed, and that's why we also believe and the governments of Switzerland believe it is important that we maintain trusted sources of information, and part of those trusted sources of information is in our system, at the public broadcasting system, which is now the object of this referendum on the 4th of March. Just those two very concrete elements in the challenges that we're facing when it comes to democracy and the processes for information.
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: Alexander Barclay, do you still dare having e‑voting? Do you still dare? Organising e‑voting in Geneva after these (?)
>> ALEXANDER BARCLAY: That's a very big question and it's a question that can be addressed on several levels as well. I think the solution chosen by the Canton of Geneva in developing its own e‑voting solution is to work with actors locally as well as putting large amounts of the code available to allow people around the world who are interested by the topic and who are knowledgeable to propose improvements to that solution.
[ Captioning for this session will end in a few minutes. ]
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: There was a question from the floor. Closer to the microphone.
>> AUDIENCE: My name is (?). I am very happy to see you speak about this. Because I think as (?) said in the past, to be efficient, efficiency is the under-product of lucidity. Okay? And I can't imagine to have a living lab nine years after the first experiment. I know that's where (?) and 22 months. But the living lab, you need nine years in Geneva. But I am happy that you will have a second one. Okay?
Nowadays, everybody say, oh, we need to (?) and so on and so on. Already done. (?) and now we are pressed to produce something because we are in a difficult position. I think you mean it is a dynamic land. I am not sure and not convinced that you can be (?). I don't speak about (?). But in the general level of Switzerland and the Swiss society, because there are some big (?) and I offer to organise one day on that to improve and to give better possibility to be successful in the future.
>> JACQUES BEGLINGER: I thank you. There is no direct question associated. So I would like to ask one last question.
[ Captioning for this session has concluded at 1:32 PM. ]