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A strategy for "new business" in Zurich

Zurich is the centre of Switzerland's new economy swissinfo.ch

A new study has called on the local authorities in Switzerland's business centre, Zurich, to step up their educational programmes to help the canton cement its position as Switzerland's number one centre for high-tech firms.

This content was published on May 11, 2001 - 08:07

Susanne Stern, one of the authors of the report, issued by the Zurich Cantonal Bank, told swissinfo that the main concern voiced in the study is the lack of trained personnel in the information technology sector.

"We are still suffering from certain restrictions," Stern said. "Mainly these are the lack of qualified labour in the technical and telecommunications fields, and another concern is the cost of telecom services, which are still very high in Switzerland."

The report, carried out on behalf of the cantonal bank by the research group, INFRAS, focused on the relation between the new and old economies. It looked at the way in which new information technologies are being used by older, established businesses.

Another of the report's authors, Thomas von Stokar, told swissinfo that the study had looked at the current transformation towards an information technology society.

"Most of the businesses we spoke to in Zurich use the internet for information or email for contact with business partners," Stokar said. "Now most of the businesses expect to move into e-commerce as well, for either procurement of supplies or sales and marketing of their own finished products."

The report states that e-commerce is now really taking off and will become firmly established within the next two to three years. The cantonal bank called on the local government in Zurich to encourage a "regulated framework" in which e-commerce can work in future.

"The most important field of action for local authorities in Switzerland is education," Stokar said. "There must be special programmes for IT specialists but there must also be ways to help the population in general deal better with new ways of communication and new technology".

The report also called on businesses to help establish stronger networks between users and producers of new technology, as well as setting up networks between institutions to enhance knowledge transfer.

The government also has a role model for businesses wanting to move into the e-commerce field, according to Stokar.

"E-government projects have a function as a model for new businesses, stimulating them to use the new technology by themselves," he said.

The report, however, praised some of the projects already underway at the federal government level, saying.a strategic programme covering education, e-government and regulation of e-commerce is already in place.

"But education projects develop very slowly because of the federal system here in Switzerland," warned Stern.

The report stresses the need for the Zurich authorities to encourage development of a more IT-friendly business environment.

"If you look at the use of IT, such as email, internet and e-commerce, Zurich and the rest of Switzerland is at a very high level, comparable to Scandinavian countries and Britain," von Stokar said "Of course as a centre for new IT-related business Zurich is the largest in Switzerland, but other cities such as San Francisco or London are still far ahead of us."

by Tom O'Brien

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