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Digital Agenda

Introduction

In its Digital Agenda, the Federal Government sets out the guiding principles for its digital policy and focuses its measures on a number of key fields of action. The goal is to accompany and take control of the digital transformation. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure have the lead responsibility for the implementation of the Agenda.

A man is sitting at a window holding a laptop and a mobile phone - symbol for the Digital Agenda; Source: Getty Images/Albert Mollon

© Getty Images/Albert Mollon

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly digital and interconnected. This development is having a direct impact on our everyday lives, on the way we interact with others, on our work, and on our participation in society. These are all changes that offer major opportunities for Germany, for creating long-term prosperity and a good quality of life for the people in our country. But we will only be able to harness these opportunities linked to digitisation if our people embrace this transformation and if all parts of society work on it together.

In order to address the structural changes we are witnessing, the Federal Government has developed a Digital Agenda, laying down rules for living, learning, working and doing business in the digital age. The 2014-2017 Digital Agenda sets out a number of digital policy milestones for our three core goals, which are growth and jobs, access and inclusion, and trust and security. The Digital Agenda places a strong focus on economic and innovation policy. It is being implemented together with the business community, the social partners, civil society and academia.

In addition to its Digital Agenda, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also presented a Digital Strategy 2025 at the 2016 CeBIT fair. This strategy sets out important measures and policy instruments that Germany will need to deploy in this legislative term and beyond in order to make a success of the digital transformation. In order to focus on digital platforms and develop digital policy proposals, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy launched a green paper on digital platforms, initiating a broad-based an intensive consultation process. The outcome of this process was a white paper, which was presented at the 2017 CeBIT fair. This white paper sets out specific proposals for digital policy, placing a particular focus on fair competition in the digital world and on protecting people’s personal rights and safeguarding data sovereignty. Go to de.digital to find out more.

Computer chip and gas fiber, symbolic of digitisation; Source: Getty Images / Rafe Swan

© Getty Images / Rafe Swan

The elements of the digital transformation

The Digital Agenda sets out the measures that will be needed to drive forward the digital transformation in Germany. These measures focus on seven key fields of action.

Germany strives to be a leader in terms of rolling out and using digital services. Demand for high-speed internet connections is soaring. The objective is for all citizens to share in the benefits of digitisation. This means that Germany needs to build broadband networks across the whole country. This can be achieved only through a mix of efficient technologies.

The Digital Agenda therefore states that Germany will improve the environment for a market-driven expansion of broadband infrastructure and high-performance broadband networks, not least in rural areas. By doing so, the Federal Government wants to promote mobility, support new services and open up potential for healthcare services.

On 27 January 2016, the German cabinet adopted a bill that will make it easier to expand high-speed digital networks whilst at the same time translating the EU directive on measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks into German law. The target is for Germany to have nation-wide coverage of at least 50 megabits per second by 2018. And we are well on our way to meeting this target: more than 70 per cent of German households can already use broadband connections at this speed, we are making good progress on expanding LTE and 4G connections (4th generation mobile phone standard), and our current broadband funding programme is meeting with a positive response. In total, we are providing €4 billion in funding.

However, this will not be enough. This is why our Digital Agenda 2025 sets out even more ambitious objectives. By 2025, we want to put in place a viable gigabit network (with gigabit speeds for uploads and downloads, reliable real-time transmission, and high-quality secure internet services). Companies and business parks need to be connected to gigabit networks as soon as possible; and we also need to roll out optical fibre network nation-wide as this is a key prerequisite for introducing 5G networks (5th generation mobile phone standard). We must not allow ourselves to end up in a situation whereby a lack of infrastructure is holding us back on digitisation. The White Paper on digital platforms picks up on a number of relevant measures set out in the Digital Strategy 2025, and elaborates on the next steps that need to be taken in order to put these into practice.

  • Providing investment incentives – modernising telecommunications law:
    We need to adapt our telecommunications law in a way that takes better account of expanding gigabit networks. This means setting the right targets, and providing the right incentives for investment. The European Commission’s proposal on revising the existing European framework on electronic communication of 14 September 2016 introduces a number of useful ideas for this.
  • Safeguarding the plurality of telecoms providers and the technology mix
    Competition is the most important factor driving broadband expansion. We therefore need to ensure that we have a wide range of electronic communications providers available, as well as a mix of technologies that provide gigabit speeds (fibre-to-the-building connections (FTTB), fibre-to-the-home connections (FTTH), high-performance hybrid broadband cable networks, 5G as a complementary technology).
  • Optimising funding options, and building public-private-partnerships
    When it comes to funding broadband, a special focus needs to be placed on rolling out gigabit technology to rural areas. Between 2018 and 2025, around €10 billion in public funding – and a lot more in private investment – will be needed. Part of the funding will come from the new ‘fund for future investment in digitisation’ which is about to be set up. In order to stimulate demand, we need to provide small and medium-sized companies and other social and economic organisations based in rural and underserved areas that use innovative solutions with ‘gigabit’ vouchers – fixed-term grants for getting gigabit connections. Establishing public-private partnerships is an excellent way in which digital infrastructure can be expanded. And wee need to build on our existing planning and implementation capacity and extend it right across the country.

The changes resulting from digitisation, such as big data and smart data, smart services, mobile internet, cloud computing and social media, are having a major impact on the German economy. Germany’s industries are strong international players and need to develop marketable and secure technologies and to set standards for important digital applications. It is vital to support companies, particularly small and medium-sized ones, so that they can enhance their innovative capacity by adopting new digital technologies. Germany also aims to promote its digital economy.

This is why the ‘Innovative Digitisation of the Economy ’ platform – which is part of the Digital Summit process – aims to identify the environment that we need to create in order to promote innovations in the digital economy, to drive forward the ‘Smart Networks Strategy’, to stress the need for action in the services sector, to strengthen small and medium-sized ICT providers and users as they transition to the digital economy, and to support young digital businesses. Special government assistance is available for young IT companies and start-ups, and the Ministry’s Young Digital Economy Advisory Board regularly engages in dialogue with the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs to discuss how the start-up ecosystem in Germany and Europe can be improved. Moreover, a modern regulatory framework is necessary to ensure freedom, transparency, data protection and security as well as a level playing field in the digital world.

Industrie 4.0 – networked production – has the potential to fundamentally transform value chains and to considerably change the business models used in Germany’s key industrial sectors. However, many companies, particularly small and medium-sized ones, remain hesitant about transitioning to digitised production methods. This means that we need to identify and remove the barriers that stop companies from putting digital solutions into practice. At the same time, we need to clearly point out the added value that Industrie 4.0 has for all stakeholders involved. This is exactly what Plattform Industrie 4.0 aims to do. Companies can consult the Industrie 4.0 map to find out where Industrie 4.0 applications are already being used in Germany today.

In addition, the Digital Agenda sets out that Germany will focus more strongly on how digital technologies influence employment and labour markets, health protection and the organisation of businesses. It further seeks to develop solutions for working in the digital world and to make further progress on the energy transition and green IT.

The Federal Government wants to support public sector digital transformation. Its goal is to make the digital services provided by the public sector easier to use and more effective whilst ensuring that they are also secure. By adopting its ‘2020 Digital Administration’ programme, the Federal Government has laid the groundwork for the future of public administration. This means an administration that uses the potential offered by digitisation, that is more effective, transparent, efficient, accessible, and that meets the needs of both individuals and companies. At the same time, the public administration’s digital autonomy and capacity to act as well as secure government communication must be safeguarded.

The Federal Government will use its expertise in procuring IT to promote innovation and the development of secure IT solutions.

The Federal Government will intensify its dialogue with groups in society and support new ways towards digital participation for all citizens. To achieve this, it is working to eliminate obstacles, to strengthen digital integration and media literacy across all age groups, to expand the opportunities for families, improve equal treatment and promote digital involvement. The Federal Government supports the D-21-Digital-Index study (in German language), which aims to measure the extent to which German citizens use digital technology.

The areas of education, science, research, culture and media are key deployment areas for new digital advances and act as crucial drivers and facilitators of further digital development. In 2016, the platforms and bodies that are part of the National IT Summit process, focused on the issue of digital education. The Digital Agenda aims to promote digital change in the scientific community and to ensure access to knowledge as a basis for innovation.

Use is to be made of the potential for innovation, business models and the channels for rolling out digitalisation on a wider scale, and research is to be undertaken into the impact of the digital transition.

In order to exploit the new opportunities for development and participation created by digitalisation, the government, business sector and society must invest sustainably in education, science and infrastructure and ensure that the appropriate framework is put in place.

In order to harness the full potential of digitalisation – for our society and economy – we need to work together with the cultural and creative industries. This is because creativity is one of the most important resources of the 21st century. In order to take account of this fact, former Federal Minister Gabriel appointed Professor Gorny as ‘Special Advisor for Creative and Digital Economy’.

If German society and its economy is to reap the full benefits of digitisation, there must be online security and protection. This is true both of individuals and of companies, which need to be able to rely on their data being protected and on the integrity and availability of the digital infrastructures.

In the context of digitisation, the security of systems and the protection of data are key cross-cutting issues. These issues are also taken into account in all of the fields covered by the Digital Agenda. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is addressing the security of systems and the protection of data via the Trusted Cloud portal and the IT Security in Commerce initiative (in German language only).

In order to protect and expand an open, free and secure global Internet as a space for diversity of opinion, participation, innovation and as an engine for economic growth and work, the rules and conditions for the global network must also be rooted and supported at European and international level. Some of the basic issues surrounding the management of the Internet (such as the assignment and coordination of critical Internet resources) are decided at a global level, meaning that Germany’s involvement in these processes (i.e. internet governance) must be strengthened.

Furthermore, the Digital Agenda also provides for the further development of the ‘international law of the Internet’ and of protection for human rights, and for the strengthening of digitisation in development cooperation.

As part of the European ‘Digital Champions’ imitative, former Federal Minister Sigmar Gabriel appointed Professor Dr Gesche Joost as Germany’s Digital Champion. She serves as a mediator between the German government and the European Commission, informing Brussels about Germany’s digital policies, whilst at the same time informing the German government about digital policies adopted by the EU and the Member States.

Progress made on the implementation of the Digital Agenda

Over the last three years, the Federal Government has undertaken key measures to meet the goals set out by the Digital Agenda across its three key fields of action. These measures include the adoption of funding programmes for the expansion of high-performance, nation-wide broadband networks, the launch of additional digitisation projects, the adoption of the IT Security Act and Plattform Industrie 4.0.

On 26 April 2017, the Federal Government presented its 2014-2017 Report on the Digital Agenda, outlining the progress achieved on digital policy in the last three years. The report shows that, in most areas, Germany is well-prepared for the digital future.

  • By developing a network of Mittelstand 4.0 centres of excellence across the country, the government is raising awareness for the deployment of digital solutions among small and medium-sized companies. Ten of these centres as well as one centre of excellence for digital skilled crafts have been established so far, and more are to follow soon.
  • Comprising more than 300 stakeholders from across 160 different organisations, Germany’s Plattform Industrie 4.0 is one of the world’s largest and most successful networks to support the digital transformation of manufacturing firms and to drive forward international cooperation in this area.
  • The Digital Agenda therefore states that Germany will improve the environment for a market-driven expansion of broadband infrastructure and high-performance broadband networks, not least in rural areas.
  • By adopting the 9th amendment of the Act against Restraints of Competition on 9 September 2016, the Federal Government improved the regulatory framework governing abuse of market power and mergers. The third Amendment of the Telemedia Act paves the way for establishing free and open public wifi hotspots in Germany, for example at airports or in cafés. The adoption of the Telecoms Single Market Regulation, which safeguards the principle of net neutrality, was a key milestone to ensuring an open internet – something which is key for any digital society.
  • In order to enhance the rules for competition and the regulatory framework for the digital economy, the government has presented a green paper on digital platforms, on which it has invited comments from a wide range of different stakeholders. The White Paper on digital platforms which was released in March 2017 sets out specific outcomes and recommendations for action.
  • The National IT Summit (now renamed Digital Summit) was re-oriented towards the fields of action laid down in the Digital Agenda. This will help strengthen the dialogue with the business community, academia and civil society and extend it to all areas linked to digitisation.

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