Main Content

A Data Hub for Citizens, Companies and Public Authorities

  • Zürich, 16.01.2013
  • Claudia Bardola
  • Text from Adapter (Dec. 2012), employee magazine of the Organization and Informatics Unit of the City of Zurich

An intelligent process portal with a secure digital safe for storing and managing personal data and documents is being created as part of the eZürich program. The objective of the Data Purse is to simplify and modernize processes between citizens, companies and the public service. Benno Häfliger, Director Public Service at Netcetera and project manager for this eZurich collaboration project, talked about the project in an interview for the Adapter magazine.

In the near future, Zurich residents will be able to store and manage all their important data and documents in a highly secure digital safe, and to release them to public authorities or companies if necessary. The Data Purse concept is being developed in an eZürich project by a consortium of three Zurich companies – DSwiss, Adnovum and Netcetera – in collaboration with the University of Zurich and the City of Zurich (OIZ). The project, funded by 300,000 Swiss francs from the Commission for Technology and Innovation, is a good example of how eZürich meshes business, science and public service.

The Data Purse, which can be accessed from a browser on any Internet-capable device, is under the exclusive control of its owner, as Benno Häfliger, project manager for Data Purse and Director Public Service at Netcetera, emphasized: "The users are the only ones who can decide which sources of data and documents they want to accept and which parties they want to allow to access their data and documents."

The core element is the SecureSafe data safe from DSwiss, which consists of a data safe and a password safe. It is already being used by various Swiss banks, and it includes security features such as two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption. Identity and access management is based on Adnovum's security framework Nevis, while the user-friendly self-service and process portal comes from Netcetera. "The Data Purse is based on proven components, so all we had to do was to integrate them intelligently," said Häfliger. According to e-government expert Häfliger, the more difficult aspects were generating the legal and data protection documentation, the user interaction design, and the interoperability standard for data exchange.

Seamless Public Service Processes

The team also examined similar solutions, such as the Danish E-Boks system and the Austrian e-Tresor system. "Most of these safes are limited to pure e-mail or document storage functions, but the Data Purse approach goes much further. Our solution does not make any distinction between data and documents, and it integrates the processes and services of external parties. That's what makes seamless and end-to-end public service and business processes possible," explained Häfliger.

Broad Application Scope

The Data Purse is essentially a generic concept that can be used for a wide variety of applications. Three specific applications are initially being implemented in the pilot project for the City of Zurich. The first is a digital emergency box, which in the future will allow citizens to put together a set of important data, documents, certificates or account numbers, as well as photos of objects, and access them from anywhere in the world or transfer relevant data to their insurance company or the police. The second application targets the processing and exchange of data with new residents of the City of Zurich. Finally, a tax folder that can be integrated with the tax return process allows users to receive, collect and directly release documents, vouchers and data relevant to tax.

Functional Rollout starting mid-2013

All three applications are currently in the high-level design stage. The first prototypes of the emergency and new resident folders are planned to be ready in early 2013. Due to the legal situation in Zurich, the tax folder prototype had to be put on hold for a while.

The project consortium intends to have specific services ready to roll by mid-2013. The key task now is to find business models, as Häfliger noted: "It's conceivable to provide the Data Purse as a service or as an all-in solution, which could extend beyond the boundaries of the city and the canton, or even beyond national borders. Our goal is to maximize the number of Swiss public authorities and companies that can use the Data Purse, in order to give the population easy access to electronic public services with one-stop shopping."

For this reason they are also working closely with the IT Steering Unit of the Swiss federal government and taking the e-government standards of the eCH association into account, as Häfliger pointed out: "Our ultimate objective with Data Purse is to make a sustainable contribution to public service networking."