An estimated 85% of Switzerland's population currently uses the internet. The government feels that having more services online would enable them to inform citizens of legislative and other changes more easily, increase direct political involvement, and provide direct access to federal offices, such as the department of taxation or the federal and regional authorities.
According to a government strategy paper on the issue, the aim of the e-government initiative is to 'create more transparency and...boost people's confidence in the governmental procedures.'
The move has been welcomed by Swiss expatriates worldwide, as one of the most important functions of the new e-government initiative will be to allow Swiss citizens to vote online. The Organisation for Swiss Expatriates has applauded the move, saying that it will be 'of greatest benefit' to Swiss expats everywhere.
The country's major telecommunications company is Swiss Telecom (Swisscom), provider of the main Internet hosting functions in the country plus a raft of other Internet services.
Since the amendment of the Swiss Telecommunications Act of April 1, 2007, other service providers can use Swisscom’s “last mile.” Swisscom is offering new, legally prescribed access services on the basis of this regulation. By March 2008, the company had invested around CHF60 million in unbundling; 43 contracts had been signed with 22 alternative providers. Cablecom and VTX had made the biggest progress in implementing unbundling.
However, the privatisation of Swisscom was effectively put on hold following the rejection, in May and June 2006 respectively, by both houses of parliament of amendments to the Telecommunications Enterprise Act, which would have enabled the government to sell its remaining majority stake.
The Swiss Parliament must now consider amending the country's existing telecoms laws, if the government intends to continue its push towards full liberalisation of the sector.
In order to bring Swiss telecommunications legislation in line with new European Union legislation, a revision to the Telecommunications Act entered into force in 2007.
In December, 2007, Swisscom revealed its new visual identity. The newly designed logo incorporating a moving picture element was an innovation for the industry and the first of its kind in Switzerland.
On January 1, 2008, the sub-brands of Swisscom Fixnet, Swisscom Mobile and Swisscom solutions were replaced with three new divisions: residential customers, Small and Medium Enterprises and Corporate Business.
On October 10, 2008, Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard and then US Trade Representative Susan Schwab signed a joint declaration on e-commerce in Washington, D.C. The declaration envisages cooperation between Switzerland and the USA with a view to improving trade conditions for e-commerce. The declaration envisages cooperation between Switzerland and the USA with a view to improving trade conditions for e-commerce.
In the joint declaration, Switzerland and the USA state their intention to facilitate and encourage electronic commerce, prevent discriminatory measures, guarantee users a higher degree of legal certainty and establish the necessary climate of trust and confidence for electronic transactions. The two parties declare their desire to work together in this regard within the World Trade Organisation and other relevant international organisations, as well as to continue their cooperation at the bilateral level.
E-commerce is an everyday feature of commercial activity. Businesses increasingly use it as a more efficient means of conducting purchase and sales transactions, and private individuals are tending to order more goods and services online. The availability of digital products and services delivered electronically is constantly growing both nationally and internationally. In this context Switzerland and the USA aim to work together to strengthen the multilateral trading system.
The joint declaration on e-commerce was developed under the Swiss-US Cooperation Forum on Trade and Investment.
See below for specific information on e-commerce in Switzerland, or go to Offshore-e-com.com for an extensive analysis of the commercial possibilities and the legal background.