Digitalisation and democracy

Citizens and institutions in light of the digitalisation of democracy in Switzerland

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This interdisciplinary project examines the opportunities and risks brought by the digitalisation of democratic processes from various perspectives. Two elements of a democratic system are of key importance: the formation of public opinion and participation in the political system. The project explores the question of how these two elements change in a digital environment and what this implies for both citizens and institutions.

Focus of the study

Direct democracy is a specific characteristic of Switzerland’s political system. This aspect is most clearly visible in the fact that Swiss citizens are called to cast their vote at least four times a year. The preparatory work leading up to voting is complex: administrative offices, parliamentary chambers, political parties and interest groups as well as what is termed civil society develop ideas that result in political decisions and have an impact throughout the entire country. Digitalisation, which affects all areas of our society, is becoming increasingly instrumental in these processes. Some see major disadvantages – in the best case, a necessary evil, in the worst, an unavoidable one – while others sense an opportunity to rejuvenate the political system.

Although discussions about electronic voting have been held for years to little effect, other initiatives have gained traction; these are termed ‘civic tech’ and aim to digitalise political instruments in order to achieve various goals, for instance, to promote citizen participation in politics and to formulate questions on civil society/community life in an accessible way. But could this process cause parts of the population to be excluded from participating? Are all participants equals in the face of a digitalised world that – to be taken advantage of – demands considerable financial and human resources? And what is the role of the state in this context?


Project duration

April 2017 to September 2021

Project leader 1:

Urs Bieri, gfs.bern

Project leader 2:

Melanie Eberhard, Dachverband Schweizer Jugendparlamente DSJ

Project leader 3:

Anna Boos, Dezentrum

Supervisory group

  • Moritz Leuenberger, Präsident der Begleitgruppe, Präsident des Leitungsausschusses von TA-SWISS
  • Bruno Baeriswyl, Datenschutzexperte, Mitglied des Leitungsausschusses von TA-SWISS
  • Alenka Bonnard, staatslabor
  • Florian Evéquoz, Appel Citoyen
  • Fabrizio Gilardi, Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Universität Zürich
  • Dr. Olivier Glassey, Sozial- und Politikwissenschaftliche Fakultät SSP, Universität Lausanne, Mitglied des Leitungsausschusses von TA-SWISS
  • Jürg Halter, Schriftsteller
  • Thomas Müller, Redaktor, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen SRF, Mitglied des Leitungsausschusses von TA-SWISS
  • Barbara Perriard, Schweizerische Bundeskanzlei
  • Prof. Dr. Reinhard Riedl, Berner Fachhochschule BFH, Mitglied des Leitungsausschusses von TA-SWISS
  • Cédric Roy, E-Government Schweiz
  • Lara Tarantolo, Leiterin easyvote
  • Prof. Anke Tresch, FORS / Universität Lausanne
  • Monika Waldis, Zentrum für Demokratie Aarau