After a week full of exciting discussions and new impressions our study trip is coming to an end. On a cold and rainy summer morning in Bern we were welcomed in SECO/ WEMU with warm coffee and croissants.
SECO is a government organisation focusing on ensuring sustainable economic growth by putting the necessary regulatory and economic policy conditions and frameworks in place and acts as an interface between business, social partners and the government.
After the warm greeting we had the pleasure to meet Jürg Vollenweider who is responsible for Macroeconomic Support of partnering countries within SECO. He introduced us to WE/WEMU, Economic Framework Conditions for Sustainable Development and providing strategical macroeconomic support to partner countries.
The next session was led by Jennifer Anthamatten who is a Program Manager South Africa working in Macroeconomic Support Unit. She presented an evidence-based approach called PEFA. Last but not least we had the chance to gain more insights of the exciting work of Carlos Orjales who is providing macroeconomic support in Peru together with his team.
After the sessions we gathered outside the building for a debriefing and feedback round. We reflected on the insightful presentations and events of the week and appreaciated the chance to have some insights of the daily work in public and non-profit management and inspiration for our future careers.
After the cosy evening at Altes Tramdepot, surprisingly, everyone arrived on time at University Bern. Perhaps it was the anticipation of the forthcoming presentation that got everyone excited. And we would not be disappointed.
The program started with Peppino Giaritta, Federal and Cantonal Commissioner for Digital Public Services Switzerland. Digital Public Services (DPS) formally exists since March 2021 and acts as a network administration organization. It is intended to foster coordination between the federal government, the cantons and the communities with regard to digital transformation projects, the definition of standards in the area of data management, the consistency of processes, and the identification and provision of basic services such as identity services. Biggest challenges are missing digital services and the dynamics of digital transformation, mainly regarding a lack of speed in institutional process compared to the fast technological development. Thus, DPS is directly seed funded by the Federation of Switzerland. The success of the Swiss Covid Certificate might be an enabler for DPS in its further development.
After a short coffee break we got blasted by the stunning performance of Isabelle Emmenegger, Assistant Director of the Federal Customs Administration (FCA). She gave an insight in the DaziT programme, probably the most advanced digital transformation project of the Swiss administration. Apart from the digitalization, DaziT also contains a reorganization process, aiming to merge customs and border security sections to become the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security. Therefore, cultural change represents the biggest challenge besides the usual technical issues. Learnings from the project so far are a clear user focus, need for radical simplification, a holistic approach rather than patchwork solutions, going step by step and establishing a culture of error, and last but not least, integrate the cultural transformation.
After lunch we left Berne for the first time heading straight to Biel where summer 2021 stroke back with its never ending rain. We were awaited at the city council building in the old town of Biel by Silvia Steidle. The current finance director of the city surprised us with a political role play. We formed a fictive city council and parliament. We then were handed a real interpellation, motion, and postulate and were advised to debate them in the two committees. The FDP politician Steilde provided some first-hand information about the ongoing financial and political situation of the city.
Our last visit was truly the icing on the cake of a very insightful and exciting day.
Wednesday greeted us, the PNP HS20 class, with hot sunshine as we met at 8.45 am on the campus of the University of Bern. The 6th session of the week was an input presentation by Prof. Dr. Caroline Brüesch on the topic of “Digital Transformation in Administration”. She explained the important factors for a digital administration as a transformation and the latest findings and results from current research. A major sub-topic of the presentation was the user journey, which will play a major role in the digital processes of the administration in the future. In this approach, the user is brought into focus. The entire process is rethought from the user’s point of view. This leads to attractive e-government solutions being offered to the population. Switzerland’s situation was highlighted in the international ranking, which shows that there is still a need for action in some areas of digitalisation. Particularly in comparison with its direct neighbours Germany and Austria, it becomes apparent that there is a significant gap in the key enablers.
Shortly afterwards, a presentation by the president of the Swiss Telecommunications Association (asut) named Peter Grütter awaited us. First, he showed the big picture of digitalisation in recent years, with the thesis that we have left the industrial age and are now moving into a knowledge age standing out. On the current state of network technology, he gave us an overview of current and future technologies. For example, the market volume of the Internet of things (IoT) is expected to double every two years. As a good final statement, Peter Grütter mentioned the necessary willingness to take risks, because without it there would be no transformation.
After a well-deserved lunch break on the banks of the beautiful Aare, we had the pleasure of visiting the Swiss Federal Railways. We were given a guided tour around the railway station of Bern, where we learned more about the infrastructure and logistics. We also got an insight into the new waste disposal system, which was introduced to successfully solve the littering problem in Swiss railway stations. Finally, we got insightful information about the prestige project of the reconstruction of the railway station. The renovation is urgently needed, as commuter flows and the number of visitors to the shops are increasing every year and the current infrastructure is reaching its limits.
After the daily debriefing, we were able to enjoy the sun until we met in the evening at the Tramdepot for an informal get-together, where we could share our impressions of the first half of the week. We are excited about what the next two days have in store for us.
Our second day started at 8:15 am at the Europaplatz in Bern. As usual, the leader of today’s group informed them of their schedule and what institutions we would be visiting today. Our first stop on this beautiful, sunny Tuesday began at the SDC, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation of Switzerland. We were escorted to the presentation room by one of the employees exactly on this day as the demolished entrance doors had to be repaired. Our stay started with a general introduction about the organization and its goals by Ursula Keller. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals on the 2030 agenda are the foundation for the work of the SDC in the coming years. One of these goals promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provides access to justice for all and builds effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Reduction and sustainable development is the aim of the International Cooperation Strategy 2021-2024 by the SDC. For that to be achieved it is detrimental that the needs of the population are understood. In a second step the interests of Switzerland are taken into account. The four priority regions for the bilateral development cooperation of the FDFA are Eastern Europe, Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and the Sub-Saharan Africa. They include the 35 priority countries of the SDC.
After this instructive introduction we were divided into three groups and were allowed to dive deeper into three topics for 20 minutes each. Andrea Iff focused on the topic of governance. In order to understand the development of Governance abroad, it is important to take a look into the past. In the 90s, the approach was to transfer our Western ideal 1:1 to these fragile countries. Over time, we had to learn that this is not sustainable. Rather, context-specific work must be carried out. Nathalie Vesco presented the global partnership for effective development cooperation. A major approach in this area is the cooperation with various organizations and institutions. Developed countries and non-developed countries must work together, not only financially but through sharing knowledge with open communication establishing a general a know-how. Mattia Poretti introduced the UNDP, which was founded in 1965. Their objectives are poverty reduction, governance rule of law, organizational effectiveness, gender equality and fragility.
Our visit at the SDC flew by. We could have easily spent the whole morning there learning about all the exciting and important work they do. In the end we had to leave in a hurry and lost a part of the group during our transfer to the university campus of Bern. For our second stage Karin Brunner Schmid joined the group. With a short delay we enjoyed the presentation by Sylvain Grünig. The presentation was about internal administrative coordination processes using the example of sanctions policy.
The afternoon started in the Federal Finance Administration Building (Bernerhof) where our group gave a short briefing about the Federal Finance Administration (FFA). After we were warmly welcomed by Martin Walker, Vice Director of “Ausgabenpolitik” in the same room where state representatives and presidents are welcomed. They firstly explained that the build was a hotel till 1920 and today it hosts three government offices. The first presentation of the afternoon was about “Grundlagen der Haushaltführung”, held by Aurelia Buchs. The second presentation was given by Martin Walker focussed on “Ausenpolitische Leitsätze”. Before the third presentation we enjoyed a lovely break on the beautiful balcony with a stunning view over the Marzili district. Lastly Theo Haldeman presented the “Neuses Führungsmodell für die Bundesverwaltung NFB”.
The highlight of our day was the Q&A with Ueli Maurer, Federal Councillor of the Federal Department of Finance. We had a lively discussion on various topics with him. For example the streamlining of the administration or crypto currencies. Of course also the financial consequences of Covid-19 were part of the discussion.
Overwhelmed by the impressions of the day, it’s now time for an afterwork drink and we are looking forward to our third day tomorrow.
Today, after one year of home studying, the class PNP HS20 has gathered for their study trip. First stage in the morning was in Zurich to visit the Smart City Lab of the Stadt Zürich. This innovation hub is mainly focused on finding solutions for creating an innovative ecosystem within cities. Topics discussed are the future of cities, reduction in motorized mobility and social diversity. Hence our presentator, David Weber, Head of Smart City Zurich, emphasised their importance to urban social life where the citizen is in the main scope instead of architectonic and digital aspects. Projects in current scope are: 1) Pikmi- on demand öV, 2) Micromobilityplatforms and 3) Züri Mobility. These mobility focused projects aim to increase to use of big data, on a transparent manner, to research better conclusions of current offerings and to support innovation projects drafted from citizen and entrepreneurs. Futhermore, the Lab has launched a project to laserscan top- and sub-terrain structures to strenghten the efficiency of the urban building department among many more. On the bottom line, the Smart City Lab is striving to set a standard for other departments within the “Stadtverwaltung Zürich” and to source innovation by providing a supporting platfrom for entrepreneurs and innovators from various backgrounds. We have to come to know this hub as a leader in contributing into our future, to enable development and to provide strategies to further enhance life and long-term development within the city of Zurich.
After lunch, our group met at Lessingstrasse in Zurich to visit the “Dezentrum”, a think-tank founded in 2017 that focuses on the impact of digitalization in society. On the roof-top terrace behind the office, Flurin Hess gave us a detailed insight into the work of the team of about twelve, which is made up of digitalization experts with diverse professional backgrounds. In doing so he pointed out that the group diverts from formal hierarchies and instead places a high value on transparency and expertise when making important decisions. He began by explaining the idea and intention behind the founding of the company and the various topics that the Dezentrum deals with: 1) Decentralization, 2) Future of Work / Work of the Future, 3) Digital Participation, 4) Digital Literacy. Using concrete example projects, he then explained their special approach to the implementation of projects from the acquisition of knowledge to the elaboration of scenarios about a possible future to the testing of these considerations through prototypes and experiments. He underlined that the Dezentrum intends to contribute in a positive way on how digitalization will eventually have an impact on civil society. After a tour of the office, the first day of our study trip ended with a debriefing by Alexander Mertens and Pascal Horni.