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Report: Switzerland fails to embrace information technology revolution

Switzerland can boast high-quality installations for online communication but makes only modest use of the Internet. It also fails to recognize the importance of the current information technology revolution, a new report said Thursday.

This content was published on July 22, 1999 - 17:07

Switzerland can boast high-quality installations for online communication but makes only modest use of the Internet. It also fails to recognize the importance of the current information technology revolution, a new report said Thursday.

The report -- written by a special working group of the Federal Office for Communications -- gave an assessment of just how much the new technologies are used by political, economic, cultural and educational institutions in Switzerland.

Presenting its report at a news conference in Berne, the Information Society Co-Ordination Group noted a key discrepancy: Switzerland offers top high tech communications installations -- but people hesitate to make use of them in a big way.

Switzerland has a fully digital telephone line network, the radio and tv cable network reaches the entire country and personal computers are in most Swiss households, according to the report. But at the same time schools, businesses and the political authorities are making only very sporadic use of online opportunities.

The report notes that many people are still concerned about privacy and data protection in the online world and that the spread of the newest information technologies is only moving slowly in a domestic telecommunications market that has been deregulated only recently.

However, the group has issued a clear warning: “There is simply a general lack of awareness in Switzerland of just how fundamental and pervasive the changes caused by this revolution will be.”

The group calls on the government to take the following measures to improve the situation:

-- Provide funds to boost information technologies in key sectors such as education, culture and science and research. This should include further education for teachers, setting up a digital inventory of cultural treasures and the launching of a national research programme.

-- Embrace the Internet at government level. This could entail the introduction of voting via the Internet or being able to file applications with the authorities online.

-- Boost international cooperation. Swiss legislation should be amended where necessary. Electronic signatures that are legally binding could also be introduced.

The Swiss government expressed its support for the new technologies in a declaration issued in February last year.

In that statement, the government welcomed the Internet and its related services as giving people the opportunity to improve their quality of life, boost education and provide an important stimulus for the Swiss economy.

The government also said it would try to help avoid the risks and would try to ensure people’s basic rights, such as the right to privacy and the protection of personal data.


Written by SRI staff.





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