The Swiss Digital Initiative (SDI) is a long-term process aimed at developing and pioneering guidelines, tools and mechanisms for the implementation of ethical standards in the field of data-driven applications and algorithmic processes. In particular, it seeks to strengthen trust in digital technologies as well as in the actors of the ongoing digital transformation.
The purpose of the "Swiss Digital Initiative" Foundation is to promote ethical standards and conduct in the handling of digital information and technologies at a global level. It supports all activities that serve the implementation of this initiative. The Foundation carries out its activities through its own projects, grants and the financing or co-financing of selected third-party projects. To promote the Foundation's purpose, it may cooperate with third parties and delegate tasks to third parties. It can also carry out other tasks relating to the topic of "Ethics in the Age of Digital Transformation. The Foundation does not pursue any profit-making purposes and does not strive for profit."
There are numerous digital declarations, value charters, and principle statements elaborated by state or non-state actors around the globe. Time has come to focus on the actual implementation of commonly shared values and principles that aim at strengthening the digital society and giving every human the opportunity to live a better life. Aimed at amplifying the impact of these initiatives and becoming a front runner in creating implementation-oriented practices, the objective of the Swiss Digital Initiative, as a private sector driven initiative, is to foster the potential of digital technologies to advance flourishing human societies. The approach is based on the conviction that the ethical challenges of digitization must be met by joining forces with diverse stakeholders and initiatives from private, public-private or fully public sectors.
SDI was initiated under the patronage of Federal Councilor Ueli Maurer and digitalswitzerland. The SDI is supported by national and international companies, the Swiss Confederation, international organisations and - as it is endeavoured - international and national civil society organisations.
The Swiss Digital Initiative builds on the numerous initiatives and statements released by States, international organizations, as well as the private sector. Instead of re-stating another digital declaration, the Swiss Digital Initiative seeks to contribute to the operationalization of the principles put forth in these documents, as, for instance, the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel report on digital cooperation entitled “The Age of Global Interdependence” (in particular the “key principles of global digital cooperation” highlighted by this Report), but also the EU Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, the recent OECD Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence, but also the many recent Swiss documents commissioned by the Federal Government and non-state actors. Guidelines, tools and mechanisms elaborated through the Swiss Digital Initiative will be publicly shared to contribute to a global dialogue on the ethics of digitization.
At first, the project was geared towards drafting a “Swiss Digital Declaration on ethics, fairness and trustworthiness. Given the large number of documents and principle statements already existing, it was agreed upon launching a long-term and sustainable process, which aims to ensure ethical standards in the digital world through concrete projects, instead of elaborating yet another static principles document, The principles stated in the SDI policy paper were developed ahead of the Swiss Global Digital Summit in September 2019 on the basis of inputs by an expert group and form the basis for the work and projects of the foundation.
The SDI has been committed to a multi-stakeholder approach from the beginning and has always been so. Therefore, it has always been an important principle to closely involve civil society in the SDI's projects. The dialogue in Geneva (with international civil society organisations) and in Bern (with nationally active civil society organisations) in January 2020 also served this purpose. The SDI is very interested in inputs and project ideas from civil society and understands this exchange as a condition for the success and credibility of its work, not at all as an alibi exercise. This is also evident from the brief policy paper that was discussed at the Swiss Global Digital Summit in Geneva in September 2019. The Swiss Digital Trust Label is by no means a finished product, but is in an early stage of development and test phase, followed by a public consultation process in the coming months. The exchange of information is therefore deliberately taking place at an early stage, and there is great interest in input and feedback from all parties involved.
No, because the foundation that supports the Swiss Digital Initiative is independent of the economy and will orient its projects towards the concrete benefits for all stakeholders. The policy paper was also drawn up on the basis of contributions from a group of high-ranking scientists, without the involvement of companies. Of course, the willingness of companies to use instruments developed within the SDI is an important touchstone for the initiative as a whole.