On October 4th, C4DT brought together 20 stakeholders from the Swiss service public sector, administration, politics, civil society and academia to discuss the relationship between digital platforms and traditional physical public services. The goal was to explore the need for action, room for maneuver, and potential initiatives to develop recommendations for the formulation of a digital policy or the Swiss service public. Three core questions were guiding the discussions:
- Should digital platforms that mediate traditional public services be required to share profits and/or customer information (data) with these companies?
- Should certain digital platforms be regulated with regard to service public objectives (specifically, their algorithms)?
- And what should be done if certain digital platforms become so central to the functioning of the country that their failure could pose a security of supply problem?
These questions were motivated by the main insights of our current working paper on Swiss Digital Service Public [GER].
Here are some of the main insights:
Fair share: In light of powerful digital platforms increasingly intermediating and sometimes even replacing services provided by traditional service public companies (mobility, postal services, media, but also telecommunication, health, and electricity), a fair share of profits, data, and visibility on platforms is needed for traditional service public providers to be able to continue to fulfill their public mandates.
Data governance: Data – their characterstics, collection, and sharing purposes – play a fundamental role, but divergent opinions exist on precisely *how* they need to be governed. A clear governmental understanding and strategy of how to deal with data issue in service public sectors, in particular how to develop trust in responsible data collection and use, is crucial but still missing.
Regulation: It remains unclear if algorithms can be effectively regulated to adhere to the service public principles of continuity, equity, affordability, mutability, quality, accessibility. Targeting the regulation of service public mandates, framework conditions, business incentives (maximization of network effects) or end results might be more promising. An alternative yet also contested avenue constitutes the development of government-owned platforms.
Constitutional power: Although a long-term strategy, the development of a constitutional basis for digitalization is necessary to enable the federal level to take action in the cross-cutting and politically fragmented sphere of digitalization.
More insights can be found in the full workshop report [GER].