IofC opens Swiss Digital Day in Geneva

3 September 2019



“I am aware of the impact of digital technology on my everyday life.” Do you agree or disagree with that sentence?’ Rainer Gude, Partnerships Manager of Initiatives of Change (IofC) Switzerland, asked the audience. The participants reflected. Then they moved to position themselves on Uni Mail’s wide stairs with most of them standing in the middle, slightly towards the right, showing their agreement with the statement. So began IofC Switzerland’s interactive session for Swiss Digital Day, at Geneva’s Uni Mail on 3 September 2019.


Digital Day Switzerland 2019


The Geneva festivities, which carried the theme of ‘human beings at the heart of digital transformation’, were co-organized by the University of Geneva, the state of Geneva, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross. As a partner of the event, IofC had the honour of launching the event.

During the interactive session, Christophe Barman (co-founder of Loyco) introduced participants to Fabrice, a fictional character who uses many forms of digital technology in his personal, professional and social life. The aim was to create a dialogue between citizens and experts on the impact of digital technologies.

The exchanges started on the individual level, with the ‘smart me’. Fabrice has a digital watch and depends on social media and on smartphone apps. Like him, people rely more and more on artificial intelligence (AI) to make everyday decisions for them. Jean-Henry Morin, Professor at the University of Geneva, highlighted the importance of digital literacy and of educating people ‘to learn to live with digital technology’.


Digital Day Switzerland 2019


At home, Fabrice is accompanied and aided by his automated personal assistant, Alexa. The ‘smart home’, with this kind of digital device, is a response to our search for comfort, affordable energy and for safety, explained Daniela Sauter from Resideo. This ‘allows one to have more time to be more happy’. The audience expressed worries about data protection and recent scandals linked to such devices. Sauter assured them, that data protection is a priority: ‘Evolution is underway’.

In the fictional Geneva where Fabrice lives, digital methods optimize the management of traffic, lighting, waste and security. The Geneva of tomorrow may resemble it. ‘The smart city knows how to use new technologies to serve the town, the canton, the country of tomorrow,’ explained Patricia Solioz Mathys, Executive Director of Smart City, SIG. Data protections depend on ‘each person supporting the democratic system’, she added.  

Finally, the participants learnt that Fabrice’s role at work will soon be taken over by a chatbot. According to Christophe Barman, 30-40 per cent of jobs at Loyco are at risk of disappearing within the next five years. The team is encouraging employees to think about the potential evolution of their roles in the light of robotization and to start gaining the skills they will need in the future.  


Digital Day Switzerland 2019


Before proceeding to the next session on the subject of work in the digital era, the participants were asked to position themselves again in response to the same questions as at the beginning of the event. The positions they chose – with most of them standing towards the end of the spectrum –  indicated an evolution in their awareness of the impact new technologies will have on society. 

Once again, IofC demonstrated its experience in creating a space for reflection and discussion on the subject of these new technologies, with thematic input from experts on the subject. ‘It was a fun method of facilitation and I’m going to draw inspiration from it,’ one participant said at the end. ‘It was interesting to note that smart technologies can be important for the control of energy use,’ said a student, Mathieu Ghanipour.




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