Liechtenstein will build a digital platform for family research. The goal is to digitize and consolidate data across different municipalities.

Municipalities aren’t exactly famous for being innovative. Way too much information is still on paper, public offices are a place where digitization is typically slow.

But not everywhere. In Liechtenstein’s capital Vaduz, the working group “Family Research Liechtenstein” has developed a concept for a cross-municipal platform for family research. The goal is to digitize family research in Liechtenstein.

Digitizing public data

Almost every municipality in Liechtenstein keeps family records in printed local family books (“Ortsfamilienbücher”). That makes it hard to research family history, which historians do, but also curious family members.

That’s what the working group Family Research Liechtenstein has set out to change. The mayor of Vaduz founded the group in 2020 together with the local heads of Liechtenstein’s municipalities. The working group has since held more than 20 meetings to develop the concept of the digital platform.

The new platform will be a cross-community project. All municipalities will connect to the same platform instead of each municipality having its own database. The other goal of the platform is to publish family trees on the internet.

A key consideration of the project is data security and data protection. To ensure all rules are followed, the respective municipalities will stay in charge of data sovereignty and data responsibility. Each municipality will decide how much data and what kind of data they will feed into the platform. They will also have to meet minimum data maintenance requirements.

Next steps

Implementation is planned for the years 2022 to 2024, according to the municipality of Vaduz. All participating municipalities will share the costs according to a population key.

After three years, so presumably, in 2024, the project is to become operational. The municipalities will decide on their concrete participation in the “Family Research Liechtenstein” project in the next municipal council meetings. In any case, the Vaduz municipal council favors the project: At its meeting on Tuesday, it approved a credit of 130,000 Swiss francs for the first three years of the project.

Family Research Liechtenstein will manage the project, including the data consolidation and the coordination of data migration on the common platform.

The bigger picture

What’s true for family data is equally true for all sorts of other data in public registries: Too much data is still paper-based and exists in data silos across the country. Creating cross-organizational platforms across different locations and organizations is the way forward.

For example, think about scientific data, often stored in different organizations, making it harder to coordinate joint research. Scientific and technological progress would be faster if we had more efficient ways to share data.

Or think economic data: housing data, production data, etc. If we had a cross-industry platform that compiles all sorts of economic data, instead of siloed in institutions and companies, that would give policy-makers much better insights into trends and a much better foundation for making decisions.

So if you’re not all excited about a family research platform, you should be excited about the general development of cross-organizational platforms. Apart from family research, there is a vast range of applications.

Image: (c) Shutterstock