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Topic - Digitisation

Taking control of the digital transformation

Introduction

Digitalisation is in full swing. It is a global trend that is transforming all parts of our lives. The digital transformation offers tremendous potential for improving people’s quality of life, for creating revolutionary business models and for doing business more efficiently. By providing a favourable framework and targeted funding schemes, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy aims to harness the potential offered by digitalisation and to successfully master any new challenges that may arise, thus taking control of the digital transformation.

As of now, there are more than 20 billion devices and machines which are connected via internet; in 2030, this figure will rise to half a trillion. Digitalisation and interconnectedness can be an engine for growth and prosperity. The digital economy in Germany is not only an important industrial and technology sector, it also helps speed up the digitalisation within companies, the world of work and society.

Digital skills are key for the competitiveness of companies, particularly for SMEs. These companies therefore require particular assistance and support. In industry, digitalisation helps develop smart production procedures that lead to higher productivity and efficiency. The buzzword used to describe this trend is Industrie 4.0. Industrie 4.0 makes it possible to not only meet customers’ individual needs, but also to develop entirely new industrial products and business models.

Taking control of the digital economy

Digitalisation leads not only to the creation of new products and services, but also to the disruption of traditional market concepts. This is why the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is aiming to introduce new rules governing the digital economy, the sharing economy and digital platforms, and to launch a broad-based discussion process. A first outcome of this process was the publication of the White Paper on Digital Platforms which – based on the discussion – sets out clear proposals for digital regulatory policy.

Facts and figures on digitalisation

27
Symbolicon für Bürogebäude in Deutschland

Percentage of commercial enterprises
that are already highly digitalised (2016)

1,4
Symbolicon für Eurostapel

Turnover in billion euros
that German companies generated by selling big data solutions in 2015

3,1
Symbolicon für Scheck

Amount in billion euros
that businesses and individuals invested in start-ups in 2015

51
Symbolicon für Sicherheit

Percentage of German companies
that have already fallen victim to cyber crime

Strategies for the digital transformation

A framework that takes account of the digital strategies of tomorrow

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. We want to take control of this development by providing the right regulatory framework and strategies for our future.

The Digital Agenda 2014-2017, which was adopted by the Federal Government in summer 2014, serves as the government’s road map for implementing digital policies in cooperation with the business community, the social partners, civil society and academia. At the 2016 CeBIT fair, former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel presented the Digital Strategy 2025. 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.

National IT Summit: the central platform for developing digital policies

The National IT Summit is the central platform for stakeholders involved in the digital transformation. The last IT Summit, which took place in November 2016, focused on ‘Learning and acting in the digital world’. High-level members of the broad-based summit network discussed the key challenges of digitalisation that we will face in our economy and the job market, the latest developments in digital networks, mobility, e-government and IT security.

High-speed networks are key

Good networks and internet connections are key for driving forward digitalisation. As digitalisation picks up speed, we need to to ensure that our data networks deliver the capacity, availability and latency required. These networks serve as the basis for a digitised society and smart networking. A lot has been achieved over the last few years: More than 70 per cent of German households have access to 50 mbps connections and LTE has been swiftly expanded. There has been a great response to the Federal Government’s broadband funding programme. In order to account for the more demanding requirements that need to be met in the context of Industrie 4.0 (Internet of Things, Big Data) and smart networking (for example e-health, e-government, smart cities), we need to further update our broadband connections: we need gigabit networks that deliver high speed downloads and uploads, we need reliable real-time transmission of data and high-quality internet services. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is stepping up its efforts to ensure that such gigabit networks will be established in Germany by 2025. It has proposed a number of specific measures under its Digital Strategy 2025 (such as establishing a fund for future investment in rural areas and a legal framework that is conducive to investment and innovation).

Driving forward digital inclusion and skills development

Digitalisation is particularly affecting the areas of knowledge, education and training: our job roles will be fundamentally transformed. This means that a special focus needs to be placed on digital inclusion and education. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the ‘D21 Digital Index’, which is the most relevant study for assessing to what extent Germany has been digitised so far.
The focus is no longer exclusively on helping people gain access to the internet, but on securing an adequate supply of skilled workers and on digital inclusion. At the 2016 IT Summit, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy presented a paper on digital education outlining how digital learning and skills development are to be enshrined across the entire education chain.

Keyvisual zu G20, Symboldbild für Digitalisierung; Quelle: iStock.com/Yakobchuk

© iStock.com/Yakobchuk

DE.Digital

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Internet Policies

Policies for a digital society

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has adopted a number of important internet policy initiatives and regulatory measures in order to ensure that individuals and companies can share in the benefits of technological progress and that funding is provided for new innovations.

Adopting modern internet policies means adopting fair and simple rules for digitalisation that ensure that consumers’ rights relating to the digital world can be enforced and that individuals and companies can harness the social and economic potential offered by digitalisation. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has taken a number of important steps in this direction:

  • We have grown used to having fast mobile access to high-speed internet – both at home and in the office. Providing access to high-speed internet also means setting up public wifi hotspots and ensuring that there is a reliable legal framework in place which does not lay the providers of these hotspots open to liability. By amending the Telemedia Act in summer 2016, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has clarified the legal situation and provided legal certainty for providers of wifi. In light of the European Court of Justice’s decision in which the court ruled that the operators of free public wifi hotspots cannot be held liable for copyright infringements, we are currently preparing a second bill on wifi with which we hope to solve the problem of providers having to bear high costs relating to an injunction brought against them.

  • Some network providers currently require users to use the internet routers they provide. The Federal Government has put forward new legislation that will allow users to freely choose the router they want to use, thus enhancing competition.

  • As our economy becomes increasingly digitised, the book market is also undergoing fundamental change. More and more books are sold online, and electronic books (e-books) are enjoying increasing popularity among readers. In order to protect printed books in the age of digitalisation and maintain the wide variety of books and book shops that currently exists, the price rates for books set out by law have been adapted. Find out more.

  • The digital economy does not abide by the same rules as the analogue economy: Social media sites, comparison shopping websites, search engines and sharing platforms not only impact on our daily digital lives, they also give rise to new business models, change our handling and use of data, affect competition, and influence the debate about data protection and data sovereignty. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy wants to amend its regulatory framework in order to allow for more investment and innovation on the basis of fair competition whilst at the same time guaranteeing data sovereignty and the protection of the fundamental rights of individuals and companies.

  • In the digital age, data is an important engine of economic growth. The public sector registers, creates and reproduces a wide range of economic, geographical, social, traffic, tourism and weather-related information. By amending the legal framework, better access will be provided to public sector data, and better use will be made of the economic and social opportunities linked to it.

Competition law in the digital age – the 9th amendment of the Act against Restraints of Competition

By adopting the 9th amendment of the Act against Restraints of Competition on 28 September 2016, the Federal Government improved the regulatory framework governing abuse of market power and mergers. This amendment takes account of the particularities of digital markets, thereby providing effective protection against abuse of market power and guaranteeing effective control of mergers.

Network cables; Quelle: dpa

© dpa

Internet Policy

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SMEs Digital

Driving forward the digital transformation in small and medium-sized enterprises

New software solutions, Industrie 4.0 applications, standardised e-business processes and digital networking provide SMEs and skilled crafts businesses with a wide range of opportunities for developing new products and services and for satisfying customers’ needs. Studies have shown that SMEs are doing less well than big companies when it comes to digitising their working and business practices. In order to help them catch up, we are raising awareness through practical examples and testing possibilities that can serve as blueprints for SMEs by undertaking a number of information and skills development measures, for example by publishing guidelines.

Digitalisation and networking are increasingly affecting all parts of a business – from products and services to working, production and communication processes. SMEs need to face up to this development, harness the opportunities and master the challenges linked to it in order to keep their business viable and competitive in the long term.

Under our Mittelstand Digital programme, we provide a large amount of information material about the different issues linked to digitalisation, best practice examples, checklists and films in order to help businesses answer the following questions: How can digital solutions benefit my company? How can I implement these solutions? What have other businesses learned during the implementation process? We provide a wide range of information materials about the different issues linked to digitalisation as well as ebst practice examples, checklists and films.

The Mittelstand 4.0 centres of excellence show how digitalisation, innovative networking solutions and Industrie 4.0 applications are used in the daily business practice

The Mittelstand 4.0 centres of excellence, which are located all across Germany, and the centre of excellence for digital skilled crafts, that features four showcases, help SMEs and skilled crafts businesses obtain practical and easy-to-understand information on digital technologies and Industrie 4.0 applications by organising events, workshops, publishing guidelines and conducting information sessions. These centres feature a number of learning factories and demonstrators that help companies get some first-hand experience on digital solutions. Companies and their employees are provided a testing environment in which experts help them to familiarise themselves with the latest technology, test their own technical solutions and run simulations of modern working scenarios without having to make any major investment.

In addition to the Mittelstand 4.0 centres, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also provides funding for four Mittelstand 4.0 agencies that focus on four areas of digitalisation and e-business, namely trade, cloud computing, processes and communication. These agencies provide information and expertise on how new technologies can be used by SMEs to multipliers across Germany. These include the chambers of industry and commerce, business associations and the Mittelstand 4.0 centres of excellence.

Helping companies obtain advice on IT

Under the ‘go digital’ model project, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy helps SMEs obtain advice on digitalisation. Funding is available for using advisory services offered by licenced external service providers on ‘IT security’, ‘internet marketing’ and ‘digital business processes’. The services provided range from an initial analysis all the way to the implementation of specific measures in the company. Under this model project, funding is currently provided for companies based in the Ruhr region and in Saxony (including the Halle area). The model project ends on 31 December 2016. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy aims to expand the ‘go digital’ model project into a nation-wide programme starting spring 2017.

Start-ups are driving digitalisation

Innovative Start-ups

Young companies are highly innovative and thus substantially drive forward the digital transformation. Start-ups are willing to take risks, they are dynamic and flexible. They develop digital solutions and business models that can be quickly scaled up. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has undertaken a number of important steps in order to support young start-up entrepreneurs as they go through the capital-intensive growth stage.

New tools for funding venture capital

Thanks to the creation of the coparion co-investment fund, the ERP/EIF growth facility worth 500 million euros, the topped-up ERP/EIF fund of funds and the European Angels Fund, more venture capital is now available for young, innovative companies. The ERP/EIF fund-of-funds invests in venture capital funds which then invest in technology firms that are in their early or growth stages. The European Angels Fund co-finances investments made by selected and experienced business angels.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is preparing the launch of its third High-Tech Start-Up Fund for the first half of 2017. The fund – which will be worth around 300 million euros – provides young, fast growing technology companies with some initial financing. In the future, a special focus will be placed on attracting medium-sized companies as investors.

The INVEST funding programme will be enhanced. We are envisaging doubling the maximum investment sum for which funding can be claimed, raising it to 500,000 euros, and introducing an exit grant worth 25 per cent of the profit made from the sale of a business.

Detailed information about the funding and financing instruments that exist can be found in the SME financing section.

Digital Hub Initiative: connecting regional start-up hubs

Many large German cities are currently seeing the creation of regional digital hubs that bring together representatives of start-ups, academia, SMEs and industry. In order to support these hubs, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has launched the German Digital Hub initiative. This initiative is to help the German hubs to better connect with one another and to make them more widely known around the globe. To make this happen, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy will set up a hub networking agency and raise awareness for how to attract start-up entrepreneurs, young companies, skilled workers and investors from abroad. More information about the initiative can be found under www.de-hub.digital.

Engaging in dialogue with start-ups and launching competitions

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has been organising a series of start-up nights that help link up established companies with start-ups. In order to boost the number of high-tech start-ups that are being created in Germany, the Ministry has also redesigned the ‘Digital innovations’ competition for business start-ups. The competition helps entrepreneurs who plan to launch a start-up by providing them with advice, capital and by linking them up with established companies, SMEs and potential investors.

Funding new Technology

State-of the art digital technology – from the research lab all the way to the market

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s funding programmes for digital technologies provide important stimulus for transferring scientific findings into state-of-the-art technology that can be sold on the market.

Under its ‘development of digital technologies’ portfolio, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy provides funding for pre-commercial research and development projects. The aim of this work is to pick up on key ICT trends at an early stage and to accelerate the process of transferring scientific findings into marketable state-of-the-art technology with high-level potential for practical applications.

There are a wide range of funding priorities: The smart data programme helps fund projects in the areas of industry, mobility, energy and healthcare in which innovative, secure big data solutions that can be widely used are developed.

The PAiCE – Digital technologies for business funding programme addresses forward-looking technology fields such as product engineering, logistics, service robotics, industrial 3D applications, industrial communication and projects that cut across several of these fields. Bringing together scientific networks and excellent medium-sized companies in an efficient way is to help speed up the transfer of creative ideas and scientific findings into practical applications.

Under the Smart Service World I and II programmes, funding is provided for projects that seek to develop smart services that can be used in many of different areas of our lives and across all business sectors.

Under the Trusted Cloud funding programme, a particular focus is placed on cloud services. The programme aims to build trust for cloud-based solutions among companies – for example by introducing unified and transparent criteria for assessment.

An overview of the programmes that received funding up until 2015 can be found here (only in German).

Digital Technologies; Quelle: fotolia.com/Nmedia

© fotolia.com/Nmedia

Smart networking

Boosting business through smart networking

In September 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy adopted the ‘Smart networking’ strategy as part of its Digital Agenda 2014 to 2017. By doing so, the Federal Government took account of the demands and recommendations that had been put forward by the business community and academia as part of the IT Summit process, integrating them in a cross-sectoral approach.

Smart networking means the systematic and extensive digital networking of existing infrastructure, information and persons in a number of important sectors. The programme helps drive forward the processes of digitalisation (e.g. through smart meters, e-health services, e-learning, e-government, smart homes, smart cities, e-participation, and age-appropriate support systems for living a self-determined life), roll these out nation-wide, and harness the potential offered by digitalisation in a number of key sectors including education, energy, healthcare, transport and public administration.

In March 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy launched the Smart Networks Initiative – a central coordination and advice centre for smart networking. This centre helps harness the big societal and business opportunities offered by digital networking in the areas mentioned above.

Important measures include: Identifying and providing information about best-practice examples, conducting surverys, short studies and undertaking measures that help raise public awareness.

In the ‘smart networking model regions’ funding programme, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy provides funding for developing cross-sector and networking concepts and for implementing steps that help to use information and communications technology at the regional level.

Since February 2015, a digitalisation and smart networking index has been used to paint a full and dynamic picture (based on quantified data) of how ICTs are being applied by professional users.

Tablet and road infrastructure; Source: stockphoto.com/ martin-dm

© stockphoto.com/ martin-dm

Smart networking

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Security and Standards

Providing for secure digital services that users can trust

As our economy and society become ever more digitised and interconnected, ensuring data security and adopting reliable standards becomes ever more important.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy wants to ensure that small and medium-sized companies can protect themselves against cyber threats and that they can fully share in the benefits of the digital transformation.

Strengthening IT security in companies

As part of its ‘T Security in Commerce’ initiative, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy constantly develops new and specific measures that help raise awareness for IT security among businesses, particularly SMEs.

A special focus is placed on optimising the regulatory framework and on strengthening the IT security sector at both national and European level. One of the key challenges in this regard is providing information about the security standard of IT products by issuing quality labels or certificates. In September 2016, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy conducted a scientific study into this subject. This study seeks to determine the extent to which small and medium-sized enterprises use certificates and quality labels to inform users about the security of their own products and services. In addition, the study seeks to find out how important IT security is for users as a criterion for selecting third-party products and services.

Reliable data protection in the cloud

At the 2016 CeBIT fair, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy launched its new Trusted Cloud platform. This platform lists only those cloud services which meet the criteria of the Trusted Cloud Label – i.e. which are trustworthy and meet the requirements for transparency, security, quality and compliance with the law. The label was the result of the work undertaken in the context of the Trusted Cloud technology programme, which was launched in 2010 with the aim to develop innovative and secure cloud computing solutions, particularly for SMEs. The programme ended in 2015.

Unified standards for Industrie 4.0

The close networking of technologies and value chains allows for an intensive exchange of data and therefore the creation of more interfaces. This means that unified standards are crucial for Industrie 4.0. You can find out more about this here.

Boosting competition by adopting unified and open standards

Ensuring that our information and telecommunications technologies are both standardised and interoperable is important not only technologically, but also from a business perspective. Standards offer a competitive edge in global competition to those who develop and enforce them. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy places a strong focus on open standards and interoperability in order to not only guarantee that complex ICT systems function flawlessly, but also in order to make sure that there is unrestricted access to the ICT markets and to free competition.

Woman in front of a monitor; Quelle: Getty Images/Bloomberg

© Getty Images/Bloomberg

Industrie 4.0

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International Digital Policy

Creating a European and global framework for the digitalisation

Industrie 4.0 and the digital economy are issues that cannot be addressed by one single country. It is necessary to share knowledge, adopt unified standards and harmonise regulatory frameworks so that companies around the world can remain competitive and work together.

Digital policy input provided by the German G20 presidency

Germany took over the G20 Presidency on 1 December 2016. One of the key areas of focus will be on digitalisation as a key element for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth in the world economy. For the first time in the history of the G20, a Digital Ministers' Meeting will be held. The conference, which is entitled Digitalisation: Policies for a digital future, will bring together the ministers responsible for digital affairs from the G20 member states. The conference will be held in Düsseldorf on 6 and 7 April to discuss the challenges and opportunities linked to digitalisation and develop joint recommendations for action. The Digital Ministers’ Meeting will focus on three key areas: the interactions between digitalisation, economic growth and employment; trust, confidence and transparency in the digital economy; and Industrie 4.0 and the future of standards and standardisation.

The Digital Single Market

The digital economy and trade do not stop at national borders. Creating a European Digital Single Market therefore is the only way that ensures that companies can provide products and services that are based on the same rules and standards across the entire European Union. On 6 May 2015, the European Commission presented its Digital Single Market Strategy. The German government awaits with considerable interest the proposals that will be announced by the European Commission and will take an active and constructive approach to the European Commission's strategy.

Franco-German Digital Conference

On 13 December 2016, the Franco-German Digital Conference was held at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy under the headline of ‘Joining together to drive forward the digital transformation of our economies’.

Apart from former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel, the conference was attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and the French Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs Michel Sapin. The conference focused on the digital transformation of industry, on supporting innovative start-ups that boost growth and job creation, on better cooperation on security issues, particularly in the area of cloud services, and on European and international cooperation on providing a free and secure flow of information, particularly by strengthening the European standardisation system.

Former Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his French counterpart Michel Sapin also adopted a declaration entitled ‘Joining together to drive forward the digital transformation of our economies’.
In this declaration, the two ministers set out the priorities for their cooperation on the digitalisation of the economy.

In the run-up to the conference, the two countries had already adopted a memorandum of understanding on closer cooperation between their cyber security agencies.

European General Data Protection Regulation

The new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the data protection directive from 1995. It is to provide modern answers as our economy and society become ever more digitised. The GDPR provides an up-to-date set of European data protection rules that help find answers to how to keep data safe in an age marked by big data and new methods and types of data processing such as profiling, web tracking and cloud computing.

Internet governance

Internet governance covers a large number of different fields, ranging from web domain registration rules, global IP address allocation to general questions about the level of openness or stability and the web. The Federal Government provides input on internet governance via a number of international bodies and organisations.

Franco-German Digital Conference

Further information

  • 07/04/2017 - Press release - Digitisation

    Press release: Zypries: „G20 Digital Ministers adopt joint roadmap for digitalisation“

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  • 06/04/2017 - Press release - Digitisation

    Press release: Zypries: “We want everybody to reap the benefits of digitalisation”

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  • 21/03/2017 - Press release - Funding of SMEs

    Press release: Zypries awards prizes to digital start-ups at CeBIT

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  • 18/01/2017 - Press release - European Economic Policy

    Press release: German-Italian Business Conference: Digitisation and Investment First

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  • 12/01/2017 - Press release - Digitisation

    Press release: The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the OECD kick off G20 digital ministers' process with a conference on "Key Issues for Digital Transformation in the G20"

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