Digital sovereignty: President Cassis wants to strengthen Switzerland's capacity to act in the digital space

Bern, 01.11.2022 - Under the chairmanship of President of the Confederation Ignazio Cassis, the Digital Switzerland advisory committee has examined the topic of Switzerland's digital sovereignty. Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr and experts from academia, business and politics also joined the discussion, which examined the question of how Switzerland can ensure the free flow of data without compromising data protection. The topic of digital sovereignty is part of the Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021–2024 of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

A state's 'digital sovereignty' is its ability to exercise control in the digital space. As President Cassis explained at the start of the meeting, however, "full control or sovereignty is by no means desirable, as it would be tantamount to cutting ourselves off from the digital world". Mr Cassis went on to say that "it is preferable to achieve a good balance between free data flow and control over data, so that Switzerland can participate as fully as possible in the creation of value through data".

The members of Digital Switzerland agreed that Switzerland can play a special role in the field of data sovereignty due to its strengths in research and development and its role as a host country of major international organisations. However, it remains to be seen how effectively Switzerland can play to these strengths given the regulatory framework in place in the key US and EU markets.

In this context, there was an in-depth discussion of the Confederation's ongoing work to strengthen digital sovereignty, which currently focuses on specific sovereign interests with regard to the data of Swiss authorities and of international organisations based in Switzerland. It also involves, for example, working with like-minded states to clarify who has access rights to data on the internet and how the inviolability of such data can be safeguarded. Further key issues include Switzerland's approach to EU and US legislation and the reinforcement of International Geneva as a digital host state.

Digital Switzerland advisory committee: discussing key aspects in the field of digitalisation

The meetings held by Digital Switzerland allow members of the Federal Council and representatives from business, academia, politics, Switzerland's public authorities and civil society to discuss topics related to the digital transformation. The meetings take place several times a year with varying participants; they are always chaired by a member of the Federal Council and attended by the Federal Chancellor. Digital Switzerland's meetings complement those of the Federal Council's Digital Transformation and ICT Committee, and are organised by the Federal Chancellery's Digital Transformation and ICT Steering Sector (DTI).

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