24 August 2021

Advancing Digital Ethics in Geneva

Nicolas Zahn (MIA ’14) joined the Swiss Digital Initiative headquartered in Geneva as a Senior Project Manager to advance digital ethics in Geneva.


From leaks about surveillance and espionage, to more and more ransomware attacks and data breaches; from questions about digital vaccine passports to lively debates about who gets to post on what platforms and who should decide what stays on those platforms: many issues raised by digital technologies go far beyond the purely technical view and require a societal debate.

This also means, that while not focused on the technical side, the fields of study offered at the Institute can contribute valuable analysis and insights from the geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence to address human rights in the digital sphere.

Nicolas Zahn encountered such debates and the realisation that technologies have social consequences potentially requiring political action when writing his master thesis on internet governance at the Institute. Since then, awareness has slowly grown, even outside the close-knit internet community, bringing together technical experts and academics as well as activists, CEOs and public servants and diplomats.

With further technological progress, the need for debates beyond the internet grew, leading to the emergence of digital governance, a field where Geneva (with its international institutions, and with CERN as the birthplace of the Internet) is ideally positioned. In addition to established international organisations working on the subject, new organisations have moved to Geneva, from tech companies to NGOs.

The Swiss Digital Initiative is a non-profit foundation that was established in 2019. It is also part of the growing digital  governance ecosystem in Geneva, sharing offices with the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) at Campus Biotech in Sécheron.

The Swiss Digital initiative aims to re-establish trust in digital services that was lost over the last years, thus hindering the adoption of new technologies, even when beneficial for individuals and societies.

In addition, the foundation works with its partners on projects to advance the debate about digital ethics and responsible digital technologies, as well as position Geneva as a hub for global digital  governance debates.