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Here are Switzerland’s 100 Digital Shapers!

In collaboration with BILANZ, Handelszeitung, Le Temps and 11 top-class jury members, digitalswitzerland has selected the 100 Swiss citizens playing the most important role in digitalisation for the third time. This year, 27 of the 100 Digital Shapers are women and 28 come from Romandy and Ticino. 

As a small country without natural resources, Switzerland has always been dependent on innovation. It is in the national interest to keep pace with current technology and the speed of new developments. Our country’s digital makers, pioneers and visionaries possess great potential. The 2018 edition of 100 Digital Shapers aims to highlight and inspire this potential.

61 new Shapers, 3 new categories 

The 100 Digital Shapers are divided into ten categories: the expats, the unicorn breeders, the sponsors, the researchers, the corporates, the repeat offenders, the enablers, the creatives, the do-gooders and the tech avant garde.

They are showcased online under and  and in a special magazine produced by BILANZ, Handelszeitung and Le Temps.

digitalswitzerland pursues the same goal as the Digital Shapers: ensuring that Switzerland takes advantage of the opportunities offered by digitalisation. The latest generation of Digital Shapers also wants to involve digitalswitzerland in its activities and organise collaborative projects to move Switzerland forward together. Nicolas Bürer, Managing Director of digitalswitzerland: ‘We look forward to working more closely with this new generation of Digital Shapers and to putting all this innovative capacity, entrepreneurial spirit and digital expertise to work in Switzerland’s interests.’

The following jury members selected the Digital Shapers 2018:

Overview of the 100 Digital Shapers 2018

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On Tuesday evening, digitalswitzerland had several reasons to celebrate: first of all, its third anniversary! The initiative was launched in September 2015 as Digital Zurich 2025 and was rechristened digitalswitzerland  the following year to include the whole country. In less than three years, digitalswitzerland comprises more than 125 members, growing from a local to a national movement that is now active throughout Switzerland, with offices in Lausanne and Zurich. It has become one of the most important voices in Switzerland calling for digital transformation and innovation.

Secondly, during the General Assembly on Tuesday, its members elected as a new President Ivo Furrer. Mr Furrer was previously at Winterthur Insurance, the Credit Suisse Group and Zurich Insurance. As one of digitalswitzerland’s founding members, he was actively involved in the initiative since 2015, when he was CEO of Swiss Life Switzerland. He will take over from Christian Wenger, partner at Wenger & Vieli Attorneys at Law, at the end of 2018. Marc Walder, founder of digitalswitzerland: ”Christian Wenger has played a key role in shaping the digitalswitzerland initiative for the first three years. Thanks to his tireless efforts, digitalswitzerland has developed into the most important initiative in the country.”

Thirdly, we celebrated these joyful events together with our members at our annual Powerdinner, our biggest member event. Let us share some insights from our General Assembly and the Power dinner with you.

The revised Federal Strategy ‘Digital Switzerland’: A strategy for the Swiss people


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It was a great pleasure to welcome Mr. Philipp Metzger, Director of the OFCOM, as a guest speaker at our General Assembly. He presented the revised Federal strategy ‘digital Switzerland’ and outlined some of the main results:

Welcome our new digitalswitzerland President, Ivo Furrer!

During the General Assembly, Ivo Furrer was elected as the new President.

His reaction to the unanimous election result: «I am delighted by the trust shown in me and by the task ahead. digitalswitzerland’s goals have always been a labour of love that deserves – and demands – personal commitment. Together with our strong member network, my aim is to develop Switzerland into a leading innovation hub internationally

Why are you the right person for this position?

«The Initiative digitalswitzerland has grown very fast in a short period of time and thus, needs more and more structure and result-oriented action, for which I have been responsible for my work as CEO over the last years. I am a down-to-earth guy who stands with both feet on the ground and as such will not only actively seek access to the larger, but also smaller and medium-sized companies and to the extremely important start-up community, where we want to create win-win situations in conjunction with the corporates.

As CEO of Swiss Life Switzerland, I was a founding member of digitalswitzerland and committed to its goals and strategy from the very beginning. Besides, I also supported individual initiatives. Yet, I am independent and don’t pursue a hidden agenda. For me, this new task is first and foremost a commitment for Switzerland itself

What are you most looking forward to as President of digitalswitzerland?

«I am most looking forward to working with young people and those who are young at heart, be it in the most entrepreneurial start-ups or with my colleagues within the digitalswitzerland business community.

Further, I am looking forward to the interaction and dialogue with different stakeholders, from the startup and business community, academia, politics and very important, to the Swiss people. We aim to create a mature and open culture of digitalisation.

Finally, I am pleased to hopefully be able to make a contribution to the fact that we in Switzerland can continuously improve ourselves in the application of new digital applications and technologies, and that Switzerland can further increase its already high level of competitiveness. Because: “Only those who improve permanently will stay on top.»

What do you think it will take for Switzerland to become a digital innovation hub?

«First of all, we need a high degree of commitment from all interested parties and individual contributions within our own possibilities. In addition, optimal interaction and collaboration between politics, economy and society. Finally, some conditions of the Swiss startup ecosystem have to be further optimized, be it through political support, creation of additional investors opportunities (keyword Venture Capital) or the targeted strengthening of education and development

digitalswitzerland celebrates its 3rd anniversary

Following our General Assembly, our members celebrated the election of the new President and the 3-years anniversary of digitalswitzerland. In a short period of time, more than 125 renowned Swiss and global companies, institutions, organisations and universities, as well as innovative locations, are on board. With this cross-sector alliance between business, science, politics and civil society, digitalswitzerland aims to incite a broad and inclusive dialogue about digitalisation, which affects us all.

We are pushing forward specific projects jointly with our members:

At the Assembly, we showcased our projects to our members and allowed them to experience what digitalswitzerland is all about, ask questions, exchange insights  and network within the member community. It was a lively evening and we are proud to have such committed, inspiring and passionate organisations and individuals supporting us in our mission to make Switzerland a leading digital innovation hub – worldwide!

Keep up to date with our news by subscribing to our newsletter here.

Switzerland has moved up three spots in the rankings published today in the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking compared with the previous year. The country now ranks fifth, behind the US, Singapore, Sweden and Denmark. We are pleased with the results and see further potential for improvement in Switzerland, particularly in the area of education and political involvement. 

We asked our Managing Director Nicolas Bürer for a short interpretation of the results.

1. How do you explain the rise to fifth place (from eighth last year) in the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2018?

It’s pleasing to see that Switzerland has made progress in the area of digital competitiveness; this is crucial if we are to succeed in the digital future. Compared with a year ago, we have made major progress to better prepare Switzerland for the digital future. The average Swiss person is now more closely engaged with digitalisation-related topics and is using new technology more and more in their everyday lives. We’re seeing a shift in people’s thinking, albeit slowly – in typically Swiss fashion, one step at a time. That’s a good thing, but being overly cautious can also slow progress. I wish that we would all be bolder and more eager to experiment with new technology!

2. What else do we need to become the number one digital player globally?

Switzerland must become a digital innovation hub as quickly as possible. This includes involving people, companies and politicians alike and persuading them to be part of the digital transformation. Only when we have all stakeholders on board the digital high-speed train – no matter whether it’s in the cities or in rural areas, young or old, women or men – will we be able to continue our steady course of development. Switzerland has all the necessary prerequisites to do this, but we must be willing to seize the opportunities and possibilities, without our fears making the hurdles even higher.

3. What is Switzerland doing right when it comes to digitalisation, and where is there room for improvement?

When it comes to education, we are certainly in a good position with our universities, in particular the two Federal Institutes of Technology. If we dig deeper, however, we see that there is still a lot of work to be done at primary and secondary school level, for example. We need to move forward here. A shift towards a general philosophy of life-long learning in Switzerland would be helpful in this endeavour. The era when you completed your school diploma and then simply sailed all the way to retirement is definitely a thing of the past. Our nextgeneration and eeducationdigital initiatives, as well as Digital Day on 25 October 2018, are examples of real projects for modern continuing education and are part of our work to raise awareness among the public at large.

Stay up to date on the latest developments within  digitalswitzerland and follow us on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook or by signing up to our newsletter.

Three times a year, digitalswitzerland is organizing so-called Inspirational Sessions for its members: To learn from each other’s experiences, get to know best practices and especially as source of inspiration. On Thursday, 3 May 2018, the Inspirational Session took place at the ICRC in Geneva. Here is a short summary.

The connection between data, trust and confidence

The Inspirational Session was opened by Peter Maurer ICRC President and digitalswitzerland Steering Committee Member. He started the session by acknowledging the changing realities, which affect the humanitarian field too: People have other needs than 20 years ago, besides basic needs such as water or nutrition, such as the need for connectivity. And the ways of interaction have changed fundamentally, too. As a frontline organisation, the ICRC has had to adapt to current changes to best serve its beneficiaries. Maurer: «We have to recognize the potential negative impact of technology and also to embrace the opportunities it offers.» More specifically, the question of data is a crucial one: The ICRC holds sensitive data on individuals, for example, linked to searches related to cases of missing people and for reunification of families, or in cases, where ICRC staff are visiting persons detained in prisons. The ICRC has to ensure that such data is managed to high standards, as confidence and trust is  key as they are striving to bring protection and assistance to persons in highly insecure and complex environments.

For the ICRC, it was a strategic choice to participate in the efforts and debate of how to build a digital Switzerland and to be able to bring influence from the perspective of an humanitarian organization with an international mandate and be part of this digital revolution. In the humanitarian field, the ICRC aims to position the organisation as a thought leader and to further improve the organisation’s capacity with the help of technology.


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What does digitalisation mean for a frontline organisation like the ICRC?

Charlotte Lindsey, ICRC Communication and Information Management Director and future ICRC Chief Data and Digital Officer, talked about how digital transformation is affecting the humanitarian field. First, the operating environment, including with regards to data, is changing. More and more people are potentially at risk because of their digital activity: Who you follow, what opinions you promote, your digital presence could all be seen as a potential risk for an individual in insecure environments, recognizing and being able to respond to this from an humanitarian perspective are important for the ICRC. Second, in general, trust in all institutions including NGOs and international organisations is decreasing, according to research such as Edelman. It is important to recognize the role that digital and data may play in relation to trust in an organization, for this reason the ICRC has been researching in to the aspects that drive trust in the ICRC for its stakeholders.

In view of the challenges to enable digital transformation, the  strategy of the ICRC  takes into account  changes in the ICRC’s operating environment and behaviours of individuals, including through use of technology and connectivity, and to address how the organization can best leverage technology  to bring protection and assistance for humanitarian response in situations of armed conflict and violence. To this end, ICRC is adapting its  internal ecosystem  as well as building an  external ecosystem to support delivery of its stratgy: there are many players to learn from and with which to work in order to adapt the organisation to a faster-changing, more technology-driven world.

Learning digital skills is like learning how to drive a car

In the first presentation, Laura Downhower, Executive Director of the EPFL Extension School, talked about critical digital skills and the EPFL Extension School’s mission: Enabling everyone to learn the skills necessary to benefit from the opportunities of the digital age. She pointed out that not only a few experts should master digital skills, but everyone should become ready to communicate in the same “language”: You, your mother, your neighbour or the cashier in your supermarket next door. Laura Downhower also made clear that this takes more than just having a modern device at home: «Just because you have an iPhone, it doesn’t mean you know the digital skills necessary for today’s world.» We asked Laura, where one should start in the jungle of digitalisation, she recommended the programme «50 things you need to know about the internet.» Learning how to build a website from scratch opens up many possibilities on both personal and professional sides.


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Tackling the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the help of the crowd

The next talk was given by Rosy Mondardini, Director of the Zurich Citizen Science Center, about how with the help of technology, open data and crowdsourcing, citizens can become directly involved in the development of innovative and implementable projects to tackle the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. With the Open Seventeen Challenge, participants (students, citizens, NGOs etc.) can submit their ideas and visions. The most promising will be supported to transform these ideas in viable projects. With virtual coaching and peer feedbacks from participants, experts and mentors, the ideas become more concrete and actionable; the aim is to find potential corporations and NGOs, who are interested in implementing these ideas.

The Open Seventeen Challenges bears some similarities with our very own digitalswitzerland open challenge platform: We are also looking for inputs and visions from the crowd – colossal and crazy ideas with high societal and economic value that have the potential to transform Switzerland and the world in a sustainable way. The 17 UN sustainable goal could be a great starting point! If you think that you have an idea that revolutionary, register NOW.

We hope this blogpost inspired you as much as we were inspired by our fabulous speakers. To receive a bi-weekly update on our activities, please sign up to our newsletter.

In cooperation with Bilanz, digitalswitzerland is looking again for the 100 people who push forward Switzerland as a leading digital innovation hub. Either by founding promising startups or initiatives, by using digital technologies for their art, research or for a greater vision: to make the world, or at least Switzerland, a better place.

The new edition 100 Digital Shapers 2018 will be published on 27 September 2018.

Why Switzerland needs more Digital Shapers

Digital transformation is nothing new or something out of the blue, however, the speed of change is picking up. As a small country without natural resources, Switzerland has always relied on innovation and it is in the national interest to keep up with today’s technology and speed. Attracting the brightest minds, digital pioneers, data enthusiasts and digital visionaries is thus of utmost importance. With the 100 Digital Shapers edition 2018 we want on one hand to raise awareness for all the great potential in the country and on the other, bundling forces and pushing together for digital projects with international visibility and a true impact. We will call these projects Matterhorn-Projects, named after the well-known and majestic Swiss mountain. These projects should stand for the same characteristics as the Matterhorn: Swiss excellence, innovation and resilience.

11 Jury members on a mission

Behind curtains, heads are smoking. Even in our mall country, the number of visionaries, doers and thinkers is astonishingly high. We have compiled a jury that brings all the expertise and knowledge to the table, to make the right choice. Let us introduce in this blogpost the 11 jury members who will appoint the country’s next 100 Digital Shapers.

Edouard Bugnion, Vice-President Information Systems at EPFL Lausanne, Digital Shaper 2016 and 2017

Operating systems, datacenter infrastructure (systems and networking), and computer architecture are Edouard Bugnion’s focus of interest and expertise. He joined EPFL in 2012, where his focus is on datacenter systems. Before joining EPFL, Edouard Bugnion co-founded the startups VMware and Nuova Systems (acquired by Cisco) and played many roles including CTO and spend in total more than 10 year in Silicon Valley. He’s currently also on the Board of Logitech and Kudelski.

Taïssa Thierry Chaves, Founder of Women in Digital Switzerland, Founder & Managing Director Y Coaching & Consulting
Building on 15 years of experience in leading complex business and marketing strategies and as an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, university teacher, mentor to startups and Managing Director of Y Coaching & Consulting, Taïssa Thierry Chaves has a profound knowledge of the Swiss startup and digital ecosystem and a tight-knitted network in this field. To connect all women working in digital, she founded in 2014 Women in Digital Switzerland, an organization that is more than 2’000 members strong and supports women in a rather male-dominated industry.

Alisée de Tonnac, CEO & Co-founder of Seedstars World
Having left a safe career in an international cosmetics company to found her own startup, Alisée de Tonnac is today CEO of Seedstars World, the global startup competition aiming at impacting people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship. At a very young age and as a CEO, she brings great expertise in entrepreneurship and a feeling for ideas and business models with hidden potential. She was on the Forbes List 30 under 30 – Social Entrepreneurs.

Hannes Gassert, Lip/ WeMakeIt/, Digital Shaper 2016 and 2017
Hannes Gassert is a Swiss civic entrepreneur, a developer, activist, author and curator at the intersection of technology, media and culture. He is involved as founder, partner or board members in projects such as the web agency Liip, the crowdsourcing platform WeMakeIt  or the strategy consultancy crstl. Hannes Gassert is also described as a ‘a policy shaper with a hacker mind’. As a double digital shaper and driver of innovation himself, he has a feeling for who is bringing Switzerland forward.

Bruno Giussani, Global Curator of TED and curator of the TEDGlobal and TEDSummit conferences and of special TED events
As a Global Curator of TED (, writer, entrepreneur and idea generator, Bruno Giussani has created and hosted numerous other conferences. Besides his role with TED, he is the Chairman of the Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) and an Advisor to the think tank Igarape Institute, the ICRC and private companies. In 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, the magazine Wired UK selected him as one of the “Wired 100”, the 100 most influential Europeans.

Marc Kowalsky, Deputy Editor- in-Chief, Bilanz
Words are his business and business is the major topic of the magazine «Bilanz». Marc Kowalsky has been writing about new technologies for over 30 years and is responsible for the topic start-ups and digitalization at Bilanz. Thus, he  knows exactly what is going on in Switzerland’s economy and has a sense for innovation and the next disrupting business models.

Stefan Klauser, Lead Strategist Digital Society at ETH Zurich
Stefan Klauser is a Political Scientist and FinTech Expert and leads the subject “Digital Society” at the Chair for Computational Social Science at ETH Zurich. His main passion is to lead research in distributed digital networks (yes, Blockchain!). Prior to that he worked for the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and the OECD Global Science Forum.

Alain Nicod, Managing Partner at VI Partners, Founder of
Alain Nicod’s area of expertise is information technology. Equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset and critical eye, he supports other portfolio companies with challenging decisions. As Managing Partner of VI Capitals, one of the most well-know and active Swiss venture capital firm, he provides promising startups with capital, coaching and networks. Prior to that, he founded in 1997 the first Swiss Online Supermarket

Lesley Spiegel, Managing Director at the Institute for Design Research, Zurich University of the Arts

As Managing Director at the Institute of Design Research at the ZHdK, Lesley Spiegel is fostering application-oriented research and the emergence of innovative ventures combining design and technology. She is a former CEO of the foundation Technopark Zurich and member of several key institutions in the venture branch. Thus, Lesley Spiegel has an extensive expertise and knowledge of Switzerland’s high-tech and innovation ecosystem.

Marc Walder, CEO Ringier and founder of digitalswitzerland
At home in an industry that is disrupted by digitalisation itself, Marc Walder felt the urge to actively tackle the challenges stemming from digital transformation. But Switzerland is not known for courageous experiments, yet more for its rational pragmatism. Because things went too slow for Marc Walder and digitalisation too fast, he decided to found an association with the vision of making Switzerland a leading digital innovation hub. digitalswitzerland was born.

Nicolas Bürer, Managing Director digitalswitzerland
From our association, we have our Managing Director Nicolas Bürer who is bringing his entrepreneurial and innovation experience in the jury. With his extensive network in the Swiss startup ecosystem and the world of digitalisation, as well as expertise in founding a startup himself, he has an eye for the next big things and talents.

Have a look at previous editions of the 100 Digital Shapers

Already in 2016 and 2017, we chose the Digital Shapers of the country. Have a look at the class of 2016 and 2017. And of course, keep up to date on all things digital by subscribing to our newsletter!

Switzerland is repeatedly listed as a top player when it comes to innovation. A new innovation report from the foundation CH2048 recognizes that this view has weaknesses and that the country must improve, especially in the digital innovation competition in order to remain in the top group internationally. On Thursday, 22 March, the foundation presented the main findings of the report in Zug and discussed together with participants from politics, business and academia in which areas action is in dire need.

General framework conditions for innovation top, but key sectors need to catch up

Among the general innovation factors, Switzerland is very well positioned: this applies to taxation, labour market regulation, the quality of transport and communications infrastructure, the quality of life and the quality of education. However, the authors of the CH2048 innovation report see an urgent need to catch up in key sectors, which are the most important source of innovation. These include the pharmaceutical industry, the financial sector, information and communication technology (ICT) and the mechanical, electrical and metal industries (MEM). In these sectors, Switzerland is always in the top five, but never on the first place. Most serious international competitors are hotspots like San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Sweden.

In terms of percentage of graduates in information and communication technology (ICT), as well as researchers in this branch, Switzerland lags behind. Further, the digital penetration of world-class patents, in particular in life sciences, is not advanced enough. In the area of Artificial Intelligence, the next big step in digital revolution, Switzerland ranks even on the last spot compared to its most serious competitors. Same goes with the foundation of new startups. The startup ecosystem could still do better.

Digital innovation competition: Moving into the second half

Discussions in Zug were lively and revolved around the question of the future of work, new forms of work and social partnership in the digital age and political initiatives necessary to make sure that Switzerland can keep up with its competitors and to stay ahead of the curve and one of the most innovative countries worldwide.

In a panel, attended by representatives from all main political parties, the participants talked about the status quo and action required in politics. There was agreement that digitalisation has arrived on the political level, yet not enough. It is a cross-cutting topic and even most political parties have no clear concept of how to handle the future challenges of digitalisation. In times of new working forms, more freelancers and project based work, employment insurances have to be rethought. According to the CH2048 innovation report, social partners have a strong common interest in the innovation success of key sectors, as this increases their scope for distribution.

 It is not enough to remain in the status quo

peaker Dr. Kathrin Amacker from SBB, member of digitalswitzerland, called the CH2048 innovation report a “wake up call”. According to her, it is necessary that Switzerland does more, especially more to attract international top talents and for the education in the country. Member of the Council of States and digitalswitzerland Ruedi Noser talked about the courage to think ideas big and international. But for him it is not a matter of being number one in all areas, but to make sure that children today have a decent job tomorrow that allows them to pay them for a living.

During the day, speakers and panelists made repeatedly the following calls for action:


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Where digitalswitzerland comes into play

The discussions in Zug have shown that Switzerland is doing a fine job, but that it needs to wake up and do more faster and towards the right goals. With a continuous globalized and interconnected world and fast-paced developments, it is a challenge to keep up with the international hotspots. Innovation, fostering top talents, having no fear to fail and think big is what is needed today. That is the «raison d’être» of digitalswitzerland: to embrace opportunities instead of being paralyzed by fear. With concrete projects in the startup ecosystem, by fostering education and talents and interdisciplinary collaboration between business, politics and academia and a dialogue with the public, the initiative aims to bring Switzerland forward and making it a leading digital innovation hub – worldwide.

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In China, facial recognition systems automatically identify individuals from a database of digital images. These biometric computer applications are now being used  in areas such as public security, financial services, transport and retail across the country. It has become a very efficient method to find for example suspects searched by the police. This measure can lead on one hand to more security in public space, but on the other hand raises questions about privacy and data security. How is the data collected and what will happen to it?

Science fiction turns into reality

This scenario is not science fiction, but reality in China . Technology will change worldwide how we travel, work, shop, get-well, communicate and stay informed. In short: how we live. Great new possibilities are opening up. However, with it new challenges and questions that needs to be answered. We asked swissfuture, the Swiss Society for Future Studies, to identify for us the most relevant megatrends and their implications and challenges for Switzerland. Digitalization is itself a megatrend and was interpreted within this context. The following blog post aims to give you a short overview of the resulting report (in German) of swissfuture and summarize the most relevant challenges stemming from the megatrends. The report is intended to serve as the basis for the formulation of new roundtables and bets in the context of our digitalswitzerland challenge. Note: the views and recommendation of the report are not digitalswitzerland’s own.

From digitalization, to urbanization and the connectivity: The Megatrends

A trend is considered a megatrend, if it is epochal, global and ubiquitous. Besides digitalization, the growth of population (together with individualization) is considered a megatrend. Swissfuture estimates that until 2040, around 10 million people will live in Switzerland and in 2050, 9 billions worldwide. Hand in hand with these development goes the megatrend of urbanization. Numerous new megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants will be created.  Due to the expansion of health, more people have access to health care and as a consequence, will live longer (aging society). For Switzerland, this means that until 2050, 50% of the population will be over 65. So, more people have to share the same amount of resources and climate change will also affect our country: The increase in temperature compared to the pre-industrial era is twice as large as on a worldwide average (ecologization and scarcity of resources). The pace of technological innovation is increasing (acceleration) and with this the intensity of transport and communication (nomadization and connectivity). With the globalization and new technology on the rise, knowledge or at least information is proliferating (expansion of knowledge and education) and citizens increasingly insist on disclosure of information on data, structures and interests of public and private companies (transparency).

Digitalization raises essential questions on democracy, data privacy and the job market

Swissfuture has analyzed the megatrends with regards what they call our “living worlds” and encountered 20 challenges. Of these 20 challenges, the following are of particular interest for Switzerland and thus, for our digitalswitzerland challenge:

Challenge 1: Data Protection
Digitalization, connectivity and particularly technological autonomization (the evaluation of information through intelligent systems) create “transparent people”. It is often almost impossible for an individual to know who has information about him, especially information that can infringe on his privacy. Informational self-determination is (still) almost unattainable despite legal protection. Therefore: How can informational self-determination be enforced in the digital world?

Challenge 2: Democracy and Digitalization
It is necessary to have a relevant public sphere in which citizens inform themselves (expansion of knowledge) and exchange viewpoints. Social media (connectivity) can greatly contribute to this, but at the same time it harbors the danger of filter bubbles: individualization promotes social networking among like-minded people—with the drawback that other perspectives are considered less and less, and, in an extreme case, it can lead to fragmentation and tribalism in society. Therefore: How can digital transformation support political participation, civic competence and political responsibility and contribute to a relevant, political public sphere?

Challenge 3: Digital Healthcare
Healthcare in Switzerland is very expensive; the system contains many disincentives and redundancies. With more transparency and better networking (connectivity) the healthcare system could become more efficient. Therefore: How can digitalization contribute to the optimization of healthcare in Switzerland?

Challenge 4: The roll of the state in the 4th Industrial Revolution
In discussing the 4th Industrial Revolution, one often hears about the mass substitution of the workforce with autonomous systems and smart robots (technological autonomization) throughout the entire industrial sector. Since the intermediaries in many sectors can become redundant through trusted networking (blockchains), this challenge could be even further exacerbated. Admittedly, there is justifiable doubt around this scenario, but should it be the case (at least transitionally) that structural unemployment massively increases, and thereby much of the tax base disappears and the social transfer costs greatly increase at the same time, the question is: how will the state finance itself? Therefore: How will the state be financed in the future?

Challenge 5: Job Market 4.0
It can be assumed that in the future fewer employees will have indefinite and stable employment contracts than is the case today. Digitalization and connectivity have generated new business models that reduce employee work contracts, which will increasingly have to be acquired independently (individualization). There is an increased risk that informal economy will represent a growing portion of the national economic output, resulting in more employees having inadequate labor and employment protections. Therefore: How can new forms of work, resulting from platform business models, be developed in accordance with labor and employment laws?

Challenge 6: Demands on the Job Market
It to be expected that, as a part of technological advancement and the 4th Industrial Revolution, demands on the job market are changing—faster than ever. Although education levels continue to increase (expansion of knowledge), we will need models that make possible and promote continued further education and retraining in the future. Therefore: How do we maintain the employability of the workforce in times of rapid change?

Challenge 7: Competency in Digitalization
Basic knowledge in programming and dealing with digitalization are now considered cultural techniques like reading and writing (expansion of knowledge). Only those who have this basic knowledge can exercise informal self-determination and deal critically with digitalization, autonomic systems and bots (technological automatization). Therefore: What level of competency do primary school students need in digitalization?

Challenge 8: Dealing with A.I.
Self-learning machines produce results that have not been previously programmed by a person (technological autonomization). This raises the question of who may claim authorship of these results and also who must take the responsibility for any resulting damages. In the future will we need a new legal entity for artificial intelligence with rights and liabilities alongside natural persons and corporate bodies? Therefore: What does artificial intelligence mean for research, authorship and questions of liability?

digitalswitzerland aims to provide new impulses for solutions to the challenges of digitalization

It is part of digitalswitzerland’s vision to bring innovation forward in order to tackle the challenges of digitalization. Thus,  within the “digitalswitzerland challenge” we are in the stage of brainstorming and idea collection for future bets and roundtables (first phase) and the underlying report “Megatrends and Challenges for Switzerland” serves as idea provider . The most relevant topics on the digitalswitzerland challenge platform (determined by click-rates, likes, and personal judgement) then form a possible basis for the generation of bets (second phase). Within interdisciplinary and cross-sector teams, we aim to think and work on those major challenges and try to find concrete solutions for Switzerland. In the following weeks, we try to dive deeper into the individual challenges and present you some of the current research on the topics or even measures in Switzerland or abroad, which have already been taken with regards to those challenges.

To stay informed about our future bets and roundtables within the context of the digitalwitzerland challenge, please subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter and we will keep you posted!

The early bird catches the worm! This saying was particularly true on Wednesday, 24 January 2018. digitalswitzerland organized a high-level panel discussion and breakfast on the topic: «Switzerland, the world’s most innovative country at the intersection of technological innovation and social acceptance.» At the panel in the Palantir Pavillon in Davos discussed early risers Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, Alexander Karp, CEO and co-founder of Palantir, Philipp Rösler, former managing director of WEF and Marc Walder, CEO of Ringier and initiator of digitalswitzerland. The digitalswitzerland-breakfast was attended by many C-Level members of digitalswitzerland.

From left to right: Philipp Rösler (Former MD WEF), Urs Schäppi (CEO Swisscom), Alexander Karp (Co-Founder and CEO Palantir), Christoph Franz (Chairman Roche), Alain Berset (Federal President), Patrick Warnking (CEO Google), Marc Walder (CEO Ringier and Initiator digitalswitzerland), Martin Vetterli (President EPFL), Andreas Meyer (CEO SBB), Sergio Ermotti (CEO UBS)
Photo Credit: Schweizer Illustrierte

The world’s most innovative country between technological innovation and social acceptance

After a short introduction of Alexander Karp, where he talked about the journey of Palantir technologies and hippie times, he addressed the issue of data. According to Karp the big challenge is the question of who controls data ownership. What happens with our data should not be decided in Silicon Valley, he believes. Instead the state should make the final decision regarding data ownership, privacy and ethical questions. Karp: «Digitization raises moral, ethical and economic questions that can only be answered by the state.»


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Federal President Alain Berset admitted that he himself does not know where the digital journey will lead to and which might be the consequences for a country like Switzerland, but for sure that we are dealing with fundamental questions in every area of life and work. Berset agreed with Karp: «We need some kind of ethics in digital transformation.» He further sees a necessity for defining a framework, which is dealing with that kind of questions.

Defining the Swiss digital identity

Another topic discussed, concerned the importance of a digital identity in Switzerland. Marc Walder thinks that companies have the responsibility to be transparent and open when it comes down to personal data. It is a trust issue: «People need to know what happens with their data.» He further pointed out that if we look at the ten most valuable tech companies, we see that there are zero tech companies in Europe. «For Switzerland it is about being an innovation driver and not being a copycat nation.» In his words, Switzerland is «feeling very little pain» and needs to understand the importance of ‘being digital.’

Moving Switzerland forward means adjusting the Swiss educational system

One other thing that makes our country a more ‘digital Switzerland’ is education. Marc Walder told the audience that his daughter is still learning the exact same subjects as he himself did, 45 years ago. «She goes to school as there were no digital skills needed.» Walder proposes that mandatory coding classes could be a way for children to get ready for a a more and more digitized world. Alain Berset added to this statement that children should especially acquire social competences to be able to understand what the digital transformation means in concrete terms. Geneva councilor Pierre Maudet, who was present in the audience, proposed that children could for example learn how to pitch. Getting to the heart of a big idea in short sentences is according to him a skill that is useful in every kind of learning or work environment.

Food for thought

The Swiss business leaders who gathered early in the morning not only left well fed, but also with new food for thought. How can Switzerland stay on top in terms of digital innovation and become an innovation driver, while dealing with sensitive issues such as data privacy? What role will have the private, but also the public sector in the digital transformation? These questions will continue to be of concern for thinkers, transformers and everyone on an individual level.

digitalswitzerland will try to stay on top of all these things as well, please subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter and we will keep you posted!

digitalswitzerland breakfast in 10vor10, 24.01.2018: «Am WEF für die Forschung weibeln.» (DE)
Photo Credit cover picture: Palantir

Are nation states outdated and will technology take over our world? Will we be all Google citizens or Amazon-ians one day? Business leaders, techies and the brightest minds from Silicon Valley and Europe gathered on 18 January 2018 to discuss this year’s WorldWebForum provocative topic «end of nation». A vibrant and enthusiastic conference crowd celebrated disruptive technologies and business models.

Federal Councilor Schneider-Ammann: We need the nation-state more than ever

Right at the beginning, Swiss Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann contradicted the conference’s slogan with a plea for a strong state. He underlined opportunities of the new technological possibilities and at the same time pointed out that with the fast-changing environment, increasing complexity and new technologies, lifelong learning is becoming a necessity. In the past, young people learned in school almost everything they needed for their later career. Today, the learning process is a continuous one and what was relevant two years ago, might be already outdated today. With digitization and automatization comes the fear of being replaced by robots. As Federal Councilor Schneider-Ammann admitted, he himself would not want to live on a planet with an 85% unemployment rate. He closed his statement by saying that as in every revolution, there might be losers. Therefore, for him, states are not outdated, but needed more than ever.

Mark Thompson: Make disruption paranoia productive!

Mark Thompson, bestseller author and Senior Executive Coach, who worked amongst others for Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, asked how to stay fit in a digital age. In his keynote, he talked about “Productive Paranoia”. This is not a paranoia based on fear or hiding from reality – instead it is the willingness to look at competitors and what they are doing right. Secondly, Thompson pointed out that it is not safe to play it safe anymore, but to take risks and develop a culture of failure. In Switzerland, there is room for improvement and risk-taking. What still is missing is a Swiss culture of failure.


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Carissa Carter and Nancy Pfund advocate for more responsibility in business

Carissa Carter, director teaching and learning from Stanford University, was talking about empathy and responsibility and how to solve problems with design thinking. One of the Tesla’s early investors, Nancy Pfund, spoke about responsibility and impact investment. According to her, in the past, many people believed that it would be enough to force change in a society by donating money to political parties and politicians. After the Trump election, many more people recognized that this does not suffice anymore and started committing themselves to a positive change in society.


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Artificial intelligence adds a new dimension to human’s creativity space

Lino Guzzella, President of ETH Zurich and steering committee member of digitalswitzerland, gave a short insight into the challenges that a world leading university with a public mandate is facing in the digital era. Among others, he talked about  Artificial Intelligence and told the public that he was asked once, whether an AI would have discovered Newton’s Law of Gravitation. His answer to that is simple: ‘If Newton had AI, he would have done that simply much faster and earlier. Artificial Intelligence is a fantastic development with a huge potential that will be just an additional tool to the capacity of humans. Guzzella sees this as a new dimension of human’s creativity space and is convinced that with bringing artificial and natural intelligence together, we will have a better chance to cope with the big challenges.

Save the date! The second Digital Day will take place on 25 October 2018

digitalswitzerland founder and CEO Ringier, Marc Walder, talked with Hugh Forrest, director South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival and Taavi Kotka, former Chief Information Officer for the Estonian Government, about global innovation hubs. The tiny post-soviet country Estonia has become a leading pioneer in digital governance. For Marc Walder this is the perfect example of how the digital change could be embraced. The panelists further talked about the need to feel the urgency: when the pain is enough, you need to change. Switzerland needs to get this sense of urgency to move forward.

During the panel, Marc Walder announced the date for the second Swiss Digital Day, which will take place on Thursday, 25th October 2018. So, mark this date in your agenda! We are committed to making this unique event even bigger and involve all of the Swiss regions and especially the public. Thus, we would like to hear what you are interested in seeing and experiencing during the Digital Day 2018. What are your questions on digitization? Your opinion is important and valuable to us. If you have any feedback, please write us here.


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Compassionate capitalism: There is more to it than just making profit

Suzanne Di Bianca, Corporate Relations and Chief Philanthropy Officer at Salesforce, inspired with her talk to sign up for the 1:1:1 Pledge. Suzanne pioneered the 1:1:1 Pledge model of integrated corporate philanthropy, which dedicates 1% of Salesforce’s equity, employee time or product back into the community.  For Di Bianca, sustainability in business is a must. It is not only about taking and taking from customers, but to give something back. The future belongs to the value-driven companies.

‘Technology is helping to enforce boundaries and at the same time makes them less strong’

Professor David J. Teece from Berkeley University elaborated on the conference’s prediction, ‘the end of nation.’ His conclusion to the question is that if we look back in history, we can assert that companies are way more fragile than nations. In general, the trend in international business has become that more and more companies are stateless and competition between states have increased. There is more complexity, competition and a deep uncertainty. Teece advise to handle uncertainty: what really matters is instinct and the need to align agility and strategy.

It is not the end of nations. But state authorities are challenged in the new digital era

As the topic of the conference implied and what is observable on a global scale, tech companies are becoming powerful, even more powerful than certain states. Technology is disrupting business, politics and challenging state authorities. The question is how to realize the full potential of digitization and how to cushion its negative outcomes. To solve those big questions and problems, innovative and smart thinkers are needed and still: the nation state. With all these promising progresses and exciting perspectives ahead, we should not forget that we are still living in a physical and not digital world and in the end, what really counts is how we can use technologies to the advantages of not only a few, but to include everyone.

digitalswitzerland is very excited to announce the new date for the Swiss Digital Day 2018. The second edition of the event will take place on Thursday, 25 October 2018. Mark the day in your agenda and don’t miss this great opportunity to experience digitization at first hand.

What can you expect from the Digital Day 2018?

Today marks the starting point for the second Digital Day in October 2018. The next months will be dedicated to planning and organizing this unique event. What is already clear today is that the Digital Day will be under the patronage of Federal President Alain Berset and Federal Councilor Johann Schneider-Ammann. Zurich, Geneva and Lugano main stations will again serve as hubs and focal points for the Digital Day. digitalswitzerland expects even more organizations and institutions as partners for the Digital Day 2018. Various events and talks will take place throughout Switzerland and transform the country into a digital future lab. Let’s start talking and thinking about a digital tomorrow. Because the change is already happening today and we should recognize the opportunity and make the best out of it.

We want you on board!

Dear reader, follower or curious person, we need you! We want to involve you in the dialog on the digital transformation. Thus, we would like to hear what you are interested in seeing and experiencing during the Digital Day 2018. What are your questions on digitization? Your opinion is important and valuable to us. If you have any feedback, please write us here.

That was the Digital Day 2017

Switzerland’s first Digital Day took place on 21 November 2017. Together with more than 40 partner companies and institutions under the patronage of Swiss President Doris Leuthard and Federal Councilor Johann Schneider-Ammann, digitalswitzerland launched the dialog with the Swiss public on the highly relevant topic of digitization. What does the digital revolution mean in concrete terms for every one of us: for our work, mobility, education, communication and everyday lives?


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Colorful and diverse: what a digital future might look like

More than 200’000 people experienced the Digital Day 2017 in person, and as many again engaged with it digitally. Over 100 events took place in the train stations of Zurich, Chur, Geneva and Lugano, as well as in many other locations across Switzerland. From a digital classroom to a ballet with drones, the Digital Day was colorful and showed us what a digital future could look like.

However, with change there also comes insecurity. Is digitization really as bright as promised? Addressing fears and insecurity was another goal of the Digital Day – because there are always two sides of the same coin. For digitalswitzerland the cup is half full and its mission is to unfold the country’s digital potential and make Switzerland a leading digital innovation hub. Worldwide!   

Visit to stay on top of the Digital Day 2018 and follow us with #digitalday. Please also subscribe to our newsletter.

Impressions from the first Digital Day