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Liechtenstein on the way to becoming a smart country

A man presents virtual reality glasses, in the foreground the audience can be seen from behind, on the wall a projection.

When it comes to digitalisation, Liechtenstein relies on a close alliance between business, government and science and on promoting a digital mindset among the population in order not to lose touch. Photo: digital-liechtenstein.li

Around 40,000 inhabitants, an area of 160 square kilometres and just 30 kilometres from one end of the country to the other. The Principality of Liechtenstein, located in the mountains between Austria and Switzerland, is probably not the country that is first in mind when it comes to digitalisation. But that is set to change by 2030. By then, Liechtenstein wants to keep up with pioneering countries such as Estonia.

Starting signal for eGovernment Act

The E-Government Act 2011 created the basis for digitalisation in Liechtenstein. The E-Government Act states that Liechtenstein authorities should generally rely on electronic communication. In 2020, the law was amended once again to expand and strengthen this electronic communication. Specifically, the focus is on electronic signatures and unique identification, applications and forms can be submitted directly in digital form and citizens and businesses should be able to access information and services from the administration digitally. At the same time, Liechtenstein also emphasises that a non-electronic communication channel must always be available for citizens.

Digital roadmap for implementation

In order to achieve the goal of being a pioneer in digitalisation by 2030, the digital-liechtenstein.li location initiative drew up the digital roadmap in 2019 and updated it at the end of 2023. Six fields of action were defined together with partners from business, politics and science:

- Education and work
- Cybersecurity
- Research and innovation
- Digital administration
- Digital healthcare
- Energy, mobility and infrastructure

The topics of artificial intelligence and sustainability are set as overarching cross-cutting challenges.

These fields of action result in ‘50 concrete measures to make Liechtenstein one of the most modern countries in the world in terms of digitalisation by 2030’, says Martin Knöpfel, Project Manager digital-liechtenstein.li.

eID, electronic driving licence and electronic health dossier

One of these concrete measures is the eID, which was introduced in April 2020 - it represents a milestone on the path to digitalisation, says Knöpfel. With the eID, citizens can identify themselves beyond doubt and use administrative portals. Legal entities, such as limited liability companies or associations, will not receive their own eID.

Other digitalisation projects in Liechtenstein include the service portal, which was introduced in 2021, the electronic driving licence in 2022, the electronic health dossier in 2023 and the digital building permit procedure this year. Numerous projects are also planned for the coming months, such as eSIgnature, e-certification and a service account for citizens and companies. The eVertretung, the digital long-term archive and the eHandelsregister will follow in the next few years if everything goes according to plan.

The sums that Liechtenstein has invested in digitalisation in recent years show that such large projects cannot be implemented without further ado: in 2021, 2022 and 2023, the investment volume amounted to more than 28 million Swiss francs, which is around 28.7 million euros.

Focus on cybersecurity

Knöpfel sees the greatest danger in terms of digitalisation around cybersecurity: ‘The dangers in the area of cybersecurity are still underestimated to some extent by both companies and the general public. The exponential development of artificial intelligence is also significantly increasing the potential for danger and misuse."

Cybersecurity is therefore one of the six core topics of the digital roadmap of digital-liechtenstein.li. To prevent this, the location initiative has set up a cybersecurity committee and is working on a 24/7 cyber incident response service. A cybersecurity conference is organised in Liechtenstein every year.

A very similar problem with digitalisation in Liechtenstein is the shortage of skilled workers. The digital roadmap therefore also focuses on training and further education programmes for digital talent.

In the next step, a future skills survey is also planned to identify the needs and measures of citizens.

Positive sentiment among the Liechtenstein population

In 2022, the Liechtenstein Institute already surveyed 700 citizens on their assessment of digitalisation in their country. "The results of the survey show that the Liechtenstein population is generally positive about the country's digital status. On average, respondents consider Liechtenstein's digital status to be sufficient,’ says Knöpfel. "Most respondents are convinced that digitalisation makes many things easier. Compared to neighbouring countries, Liechtenstein is generally in a good position. The digital maturity of the economy and state is generally viewed positively, although clear differences can be recognised.

Every year, digital-liechtenstein.li organises a Digital Day to get the population involved in digitalisation. At the last Digital Day in November, people were able to experiment with robots, learn about AI image generation, try out virtual reality, test ChatGPT for school lessons or even develop their own digital avatar.

Small but mighty?

With around 40,000 inhabitants and an area smaller than Washington D.C., Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country in Europe - does being such a small country help or hinder digitalisation, Mr Knöpfel?

"The short distances and therefore faster decision-making processes in Liechtenstein are also an advantage when it comes to digitalisation. Liechtenstein can therefore move much faster than other countries. Estonia is a role model for Liechtenstein when it comes to e-government. It is also a smaller country that is making excellent use of the opportunities offered by digitalisation for its administration with e-Estonia. The digital-liechtenstein.li location initiative ensures that the most important players (business, government and science) in the digital transformation in Liechtenstein are networked with each other and synergies are utilised. Our small size is certainly also an advantage here, as it allows us to join forces more effectively."

Digital pioneer 2030

Both Martin Knöpfel and Prime Minister Daniel Risch are very certain that Liechtenstein will achieve its goal of being a digital pioneer by 2030. Knöpfel is focussing on implementing the digital roadmap so that the country ‘counts as an international benchmark alongside Estonia by 2030’. Risch says that Liechtenstein is ‘fully on track’ in its digitalisation efforts.

However, for this to be measured quantitatively in the future, Liechtenstein must be included in an index such as the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, which is not yet the case. Perhaps size does matter in this case.

More information on digitalisation in Liechtenstein can be found here.

Daniel Risch, Head of Government and Minister for Presidential Affairs and Finance in the Principality of Liechtenstein, will be on stage at the Smart Country Convention on 16 October to report on digitalisation in his country.

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