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Swiss authorities to launch Internet gateway

Switzerland is preparing to launch its first cyber administration website for its citizens at home or abroad. The Internet gateway, www.ch.ch, will provide a range of online services.

The site, which is not due to be activated before December, will initially answer questions related to 12 themes designed to provide users with practical information. These include up-to-date advice about travelling abroad, how to go about setting up a small business, healthcare, employment and tax information. The initial budget for the project has been set at SFr15 million.

The new tool will also act as a national portal for existing regional internet sites. In canton Aarau, for example, citizens can already order number plates for their vehicles or apply for a driving test on line.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Confederation, Hanna Muralt, said the new website would act as a platform giving immediate access to content on both cantonal web pages and locally-run internet sites.

"We hope this new portal will provide a springboard to cantons and local communities," Muralt explained.

Future plans for the fledgling site include the possibility of renewing passports directly on the web as well as carrying out administrative tasks such as the registering of a marriage or birth of a child.

A number of stumbling blocks remain, however, before the site is ready to be launched at the end of the year. Issues of data protection and the feasibility of electronic signatures are still under discussion.

"We must be 100 per cent sure of a person's identity in the course of any on-line transaction," said Kosmas Tsiraktsopulos, spokesman for the federal office of data protection.

However, Tsiraktsopulos added that the system would never be completely foolproof.

"In any situation there will always be a human factor which prevents 100 per cent security," he explained.

swissinfo with agencies


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