Submit a building application. Complete the tax return. Or order an extract from the criminal record. Everything online, everything media-free, and everything with a single login: this should soon be possible in the canton of Aargau. This is thanks to the so-called verified electronic identity, or E-ID for short.
The idea behind it: The user gets an electronic identity, a login. It can be uniquely identified, similar to the ID in real life. Services for which he previously had to go to a counter or for which complex authentication steps were required can now be used conveniently from home. A lot of paperwork is eliminated. Citizens and the cantonal administration can save effort and thus costs in the future.
The canton of Aargau tackled this project in a pilot. It is only the fourth canton to introduce an E-ID provided by an external company. More are in the starting blocks.
First, the technology has to work
You can already log in with a verified electronic identity on the canton’s website under “My account”. However, services cannot yet be used. This will be possible in a second step, probably from autumn. The first thing to do is to make sure that the technology works, explains Marco Bürli, head of IT project management at the canton. Until then, it was also necessary to learn how to use the E-ID organizationally.
And this is how it works: The user registers with a provider of an E-ID. The E-ID has four different security levels. For the lowest one, a registration by email is sufficient, for higher levels you have to go by personally once and confirm that you are also who you say you are. The more confidential the data associated with a service, the higher the security level of the E-ID. If I want the canton to approve a lottery evening, the lowest level is sufficient. However, if I want to have a look at my tax bill or, should this be possible at some point, vote electronically, I need a higher level.
For the canton, advancing digitization always means defining which services require which security level. It has been shown: «There are many applications for which a high level is not required. The potential to become more efficient and to be able to answer applications faster is huge, ”says Bürli.
Over 1.4 million already have a SwissID
It would actually be envisaged that there would be several providers of electronic identities. At the moment there are some who operate regionally, but only one with a nationwide reach. Namely the SwissID from the SwissSign Group. The company is a consortium of various well-known institutions, including the Post, SBB, Swisscom, several banks and insurance companies. Over 1.4 million people in Switzerland already have a SwissID. The Canton of Aargau also works with the SwissSign Group. However, if there were to be other providers of electronic identities in the future, this would not be a problem. The system is set up so that it would also work with other E-IDs.
This would also be relevant against a different background: At the beginning of the year, a referendum was held against the E-ID law. The law is supposed to regulate the E-IDs uniformly – legally there is currently a cantonal patchwork. The referendum committee is disturbed by the fact that the E-ID should be provided by private providers. The state should do that, they demand.
If the law were rejected, Aargau would still push ahead with the digitalization of its services. “It doesn’t matter to us whether the product is provided by the SwissSign Group or the federal government. In the future, however, we must be able to work with digital identities, »says Bürli.
Where the journey will go is still open
At the moment it is about offering as many services as possible as simply as possible. Where the journey could then go is open. This process will in turn open up new opportunities. Opportunities you don’t even think about today. Bürli gives the example of Twint: When smartphones were invented, nobody thought that money could be sent with just two clicks.
First, cell phones were needed, then banking apps, and only in a third step was Twint created. Such similar developments could now also go through the E-IDs. “We’re only scratching the surface at the moment,” says Bürli. “We are still a long way from even fully exploiting the potential.” It is all the more important that you now take this path.