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2019/04/04 01:40:00 GMT+2

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The e-ID: interplay between the government and the private sector paving the road to success

The e-ID: interplay between the government and the private sector paving the road to success

There is no doubt that digitalisation offers great opportunities to design processes that are free of media discontinuity and thus safer and more efficient. An important prerequisite is a nationally recognised digital identity. With the new law on electronic identification services, the Federal Council and Parliament are currently working on taking a big step forwards in the area of the e-ID with a view to making it secure, simple and quick to conclude business processes or administrative formalities on the internet.

Shopping, booking trips, playing games and comparing prices are some of the many things that can today be readily done on the internet. Almost no one would want to relinquish these advantages that have been ushered in by digitalisation. There are probably also very few people who have not at some time or other wished they could conclude administrative formalities or business processes just as easily from home on their sofa. But it is precisely with these types of processes that digitally savvy users tend to sooner or later hit a wall. For example when they want to prove their identity to sign their tax declaration, to order an official document or to sign a contract. What then ensues is a sometimes tedious switch to the analogue world, where documents must be printed and signed, an envelope found, stamps bought and a trip made to the mailbox.

The e-ID will make it possible for Swiss citizens to unequivocally identify themselves in the digital space in the future.

The Federal Council aims to counter this issue with the introduction of a federal act on electronic identification services. This is to govern how, when, to whom and according to which criteria electronic identification (e-IDs) can be granted. The e-ID will make it possible for Swiss citizens to unequivocally and seamlessly identify themselves in the digital space in the future.

National Council in clear favour of the e-ID

The National Council, as the first of the two chambers, concerned itself with this subject matter during the spring session. The strong emotions that this issue gives rise to became evident in the roughly two-hour introductory debate. Detailed consideration also required significant speaking time: it took four hours of debate before the law was adopted, with 128 votes in favour, 48 against and four abstentions, by a large majority.

Division of responsibilities has clear advantages

There is currently a particularly controversial debate as to whether the government should outsource the responsibility of assigning identities to the private sector. This is because, in its legislative proposal, the Federal Council foresees a clear division of responsibilities between the government and private sector issuers of e-IDs. The proposed division of responsibilities is not without good reason: examples can be found of a number of countries which demonstrate that purely public sector solutions were not expedient. Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter (FDP) spoke to this during the National Council debate. A lack of market and client proximity can result in purely government e-IDs being used only to a limited extent.

There is currently a particularly controversial debate as to whether the government should outsource the responsibility of assigning identities to the private sector.

In fact, this is what resulted in the failure of the first attempt to introduce an e-ID in Switzerland. For an e-ID to be successful, it is essential that it give users a broad range of potential areas of application, both official and private. Also key is that the e-ID be disseminated rapidly. This is the only way to exploit the full potential of an electronic identity. The Federal Council has learned from its mistakes during its first attempt to introduce the e-ID. Following a long debate, the large majority of Parliament agreed with this line of argumentation.

The ball now in the court of the Council of States

The next political step will be for the Council of State’s Legal Affairs Committee to concern itself with the matter. From the perspective of Switzerland as a location, one thing is clear: Switzerland cannot not fall behind with regard to the e-ID. It must offer its citizens a practical, client-friendly and widely accepted electronic identity that enables them to identify themselves unequivocally on the internet. If this is achieved, the e-ID will benefit everyone. The SBA is convinced that the Federal Council has developed a good, rapidly-implementable and viable road map to this end and therefore supports this law.