Swiss Digital Service Public: Towards a Digital Policy

Date 01/08/2023 - 31/03/2024
Type Policy
Author Matthias Finger, Melanie Kolbe-Guyot

Digitalization has instigated a profound societal and economic shifts, including the relationship between service/product providers and customers. Digialization overlays physical reality, transforming traditional linear value chains into digital platform-mediated networks, making former producers and consumers customers of these platforms. These digital platforms thrive on two-sided markets and network effects, consolidating their influence and often leading to monopolistic tendencies and substantial profits. These platforms transcend borders, impacting both the commercial and social dimensions and reshaping the role of the state in sectors like public services, health, and education.

They therefore also increasingly affect the Swiss Service Public, i.e. the physical (infrastructure-based) services provided by the public sector (municipalities, cantons, federal government) – or by a private (or public) company on behalf of the public sector – for the benefit of citizens (as individuals) (provision of services). Service public services are guided by the legal principles of continuity (the service public should always be available), equal treatment (all citizens of a territory are treated equally) and affordability (the services should, in principle, be affordable for citizens).

In light of increasing power of digital platforms that intermediate the service public provisions, this project therefore critically discusses the relationship between digital platforms and traditional physical public services in order to shed light on the need for action, room for maneuver, and initiatives as well as to develop recommendations for the formulation of a digital policy for the public service. The focus will be on the question of regulating platforms (and data) that affect the general public interest and basic security in Switzerland. Three particular aspects will be explored in detail:

  1. Should digital platforms that mediate traditional public services be required to share profits and/or customer information (data) with these companies?
  2. Should certain digital platforms be regulated with regard to service public objectives (specifically, their algorithms)?
  3. 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?