With the emergence of IT courses at Swiss universities in the 1970s, there emerged a clear need for an association to serve this new wave of IT professionals. Thereforein 1983, SI (Swiss Informatics Society) was formed from the existing Swiss chapter of ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, to serve as the primary association for tertiary educated IT professionals. 

Today, SI is the leading association representing the interests of computer scientists, informatics and digital education in Switzerland, with over 450 professors from universities and colleges. To celebrate these accomplishments and the 40-year existence of SI, the association invites its members on November 17th to an anniversary celebration at the Hotel Schweizerhof, Bern, Switzerland. Ahead of the evening’s gala, a number of speakers are invited for presentations and a panel discussion.

Dr. Pierre-Yves Burgi from the University of Geneva will lead us into the topic of “DNA as Data Storage”. Storing data in DNA is a concept that dates back to the 1950s and in a experiment in 1988, researchers were able to insert 35 bits which represented the pixels of an image into the DNA of a bacterium. The technology has accelerated in recent years, reaching 200 MB in 2018 using in vitro synthetic DNA. The automatisation of all stages of DNA synthesis, preservation and sequencing will be explored through the European “DNA Microfactory for Autonomous Archiving” (DNAMIC) project, which brings together teams from five countries with skills in algorithmics, genomics, microfluidics and mechatronics, and which is due to get underway this autumn.

For our second presentation, Dr. Sonia Duc, a security consultant at Adnovum who studied at EPFL, will delve into “Post-Quantum Cryptography” (PQC). Cryptography plays a crucial role in securing and ensuring the confidentiality of digital communication and data. The concept of quantum computing poses a major threat as most of the public-key cryptographic algorithms can be easily broken by it. The efforts of post-quantum cryptography involve actively crafting and constructing the means to safeguard critical data and systems against potential breaches facilitated by quantum computers.  Though building a robust quantum computer may be a long journey, it is the responsibility of every industry player to be aware, be prepared and adhere to the cryptographic standards. 

Finally, a panel discussion on the topic of “The Future of Computer Science” will feature representatives from politics, academia and industry and explore the challenges and chances ahead. The rapid development of the last decades will only continue and it is essential that Switzerland’s IT representatives lead the discussions and take measures to keep on the right path.

The SI is excited to celebrate its 40th anniversary and and looks forward to the next decade representingt the IT professionals of Switzerland!

(Based on texts provided by Dr Pierre-Yves Burgi and Dr Sonia Duc and a history of the SI written by François Louis Nicolet)

Photo credit: Schweizerhof Hotel, Bern, Switzerland.