Zurich’s city council has just under 30,000 employees and, in addition to the traditional departments, also encompasses public transport services, the city hospital, and the municipal electricity company (ewz). The administration is changing. It’s becoming more digital. Zurich City Council has consistently pursued digitalization and modernization, and not just since the coronavirus pandemic. At the end of 2018, it finalized its “Smart City Zurich” strategy and, subsequently, three key points to support the strategy in practice. In doing so, the city council gave digitalization a comprehensive framework and a city-wide direction. Although the City of Zurich managed to switch to remote working largely without any problems when the coronavirus came along, the pandemic brought to light other areas where action is required for the digital transformation. Last June, the city council therefore decided to pursue an additional digitalization program: “Digi+” is intended to boost digitalization in the divisions and service departments.
The efforts of last year are now bearing fruit. Not only were new technologies and methods such as AI and the LoRa network for IoT applications introduced and employed across the city, but new services and opportunities are also emerging for the local population and employees of the city administration. Let’s take a look at some examples below.
Online services for the local population
2018 saw the launch of “Mein Konto” (My Account), the gateway to the City of Zurich’s online services. Local people and firms can use this central access point to draw on services offered by the City of Zurich. Around 40 services to date have been activated, including managing your own taxes or childcare, applying for municipal apartments or parking permits, notifying a change of address, or registering for a marriage ceremony. “Mein Konto” already has around 130,000 registered users, and the number is rising fast. Since February 2021, you can log into “Mein Konto” using the “Zurich Access” app, and you don’t need a password. For the City of Zurich, online services are not simply a way to offer people services around the clock they also help to simplify internal processes. In this respect, the launch of online services always makes internal processes more efficient. In addition to putting up more services online, we are also working on modernizing the city’s web presence. The idea is to simplify user journeys, and to better coordinate and integrate online services and information offers.
Using “Mein Konto”, inhabitants of the City of Zurich and companies can gain central access to online services.
Enabling mobile and flexible working
The “Workplace of the Future” program seeks to completely overhaul and modernize the urban workplace. City employees should be able to use up-to-date digital tools to work together and to work flexibly, for example at home. Last June, the OIZ department took the first step by rolling out Microsoft Teams across the city, providing everyone with a solution for chat and video conferencing. In further stages, starting in spring 2022, we are also planning to use Exchange Online, to migrate SharePoint work rooms to Microsoft 365, and to enable access to further applications from the M365 family, such as MS Stream, Forms and Power Platform. It goes without saying that all these will comply with comprehensive data protection and legal rules. Alongside this, various city-wide processes have been and will be digitalized, for example HR and accounts payable processes.
Promoting innovation, building knowledge, and changing culture
To support the digital transformation, we have introduced several measures. The “Smart City” team has come up with a program to foster a culture of innovation among city employees. This includes a “Smart City Lab”, a creative workspace and meeting point for city employees and people from outside the administration, such as firms, universities and start-ups; an “Innovation Grant”, to encourage innovative projects; and “StadtBoxes”, where employees can put forward and develop their own ideas and suggestions. To support the introduction of the “Workplace of the Future”, we have put together a temporary team of community managers to look after the 400 or so city super-users. The team will also be responsible for conveying knowledge to city organizations using tools such as internal webinars. With the “Züri digital” program, we are promoting employees’ digital skills across the city. This is based on a self-check, which employees can use to test their online skills. Building on from this is a range of options comprising webinars and self-learning services, for example on topics such as OneNote and how to deal with phishing emails, as well as topics such as digital wellbeing and leadership from a distance. For managers in the city administration, we offer peer-to-peer webinars, online discussion panels and management training. For employees grappling with digitalization, there are additional networking opportunities, a city-wide database of projects and plans, and opportunities for knowledge transfer.
Digital transformation has become a hot topic in the City of Zurich. And it’s not going anywhere fast. We can only implement it successfully by striking the right balance between technology, people and culture.
ti&m special e-government
What about the digital transformation of the public service? In our magazine ti&m special, we asked further digitalization experts from politics and government. to download