Bitkom on the Federal Government's Digital Strategy
Digital strategy sets concrete goals but leaves important questions unanswered
Three prioritised lever projects can effectively accelerate digitisation in Germany
Berg: "Federal government must get to work without delay"
Berlin, 30 August 2022 - Commenting on the upcoming adoption of the Digital Strategy by the Federal Cabinet, Bitkom President Achim Berg explains:
"This digital strategy sets very specific priorities for particularly important projects with a leveraging effect for further areas of digitsation. It can give Germany's digitisation a powerful boost - if everyone gets on board and the implementation succeeds. However, the necessary digital turnaround cannot be initiated with this digital strategy.
For the first time, a digital policy paper is available that does not just list individual measures, but approaches digital policy holistically, focusing on the big picture and not getting lost in minor issues. With its new strategy, the Federal Government is starting in the right places to achieve a lot with simple measures such as electronic identities for all people in Germany.
Now the digital strategy must be filled with life. We see the Digital Ministry as being responsible for this. It must ensure that the strategy is fully implemented by the ministries involved as quickly as possible. For this, all ministries without exception must pull together.
We welcome the fact that the Federal Government has set itself binding goals that will show the success or failure of German digital policy in the coming years. Some targets are provided with concretely measurable figures or target values, such as fibre-optic coverage of half of households and businesses by 2025. We welcome this approach, but it should be pursued even more consistently. Too many targets are still vague and progress is not verifiable. For example, the comprehensive availability of data in the health sector or the development of an interoperable education ecosystem are too vague and open up arbitrary room for interpretation.
We welcome that the Federal Government clearly prioritises three topics with leverage effect. These are projects that can become real digitalisation accelerators: the expansion of gigabit networks and data spaces, internationally uniform norms and standards, as well as secure digital identities - so-called eIDs - and modern registers. Secure eIDs are the basic prerequisite for finally bringing our thoroughly analogue administration into the digital age. However, no concrete milestones are named for these priority projects. Prioritisation should also go hand in hand with a particularly fast pace. We do not see this and here the strategy leaves too many questions unanswered. This also applies to other central projects, such as the abolition of written form requirements by means of a general clause. The agreement on this point is a real step forward. But here, too, a concrete timetable is missing, because there are still three years until the end of the legislature and the issue should be tackled right now. The printing and typing of e-mails and scanned PDF files must come to an end in German offices. It is a bitter irony that only in July the government ordered employers to keep employment contracts in paper form instead of allowing a digital alternative as in other EU countries.
Overall, the digital strategy lacks ambition in too many areas. As the largest economy in Europe, we should be more ambitious. The goal of climbing to a place in the top 10 in the European Union's Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), for example, would already be achieved with an improvement of a modest three places - and it would still mean a midfield position. For example, on the important topic of IT professionals, some important measures are included, such as the digitalisation of visa procedures. However, this degree of concreteness is lacking in other projects, so that a dedicated IT skills package is missing from this strategy. The Federal Government must do more here. In addition, some projects are mentioned that would be implemented even without a digital strategy, such as the national online training platform. This also applies to other specialised chapters, such as in the area of data, where the advanced cloud project Gaia-X is listed. In addition, numerous projects are listed as measures that run independently of the federal government's policy, for example through European regulation. And last but not least, a big question mark remains behind some of the major digital projects announced by the traffic light coalition agreement: the strategy lacks binding measures for the digital budget and the data institute.
The digital strategy marks an important milestone, but it does not herald the necessary digital turnaround. It is now up to the government to ensure that the measures outlined in the digital strategy are implemented as quickly as possible and pulverised on the way from programme to practice."