Is Germany a ‘failed state’ for public digital services?

DPA/The Local
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Is Germany a ‘failed state’ for public digital services?
Bitkom President Ralf Wintergerst. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Germany lags behind much of Europe in the digital economy and is akin to a failed state for public digital services, according to the head of the digital industry association Bitkom.


"In the digitalisation of the economy and society, we are globally and in Europe only in the middle of the field. So, not a laggard, but also far from being excellent." Bitkom President Ralf Wintergerst told the German Press Agency (dpa).

But for digital public services he likened Germany to a "failed state”, despite the government launching a new digital strategy last year.

"Administrative digitalisation is not just about citizens being able to digitally apply for birth certificates and passports. It's also about digitalising and simplifying approval and reporting processes for the economy."

Wintergerst emphasised that bureaucracy currently presents the most significant obstacle to digital progress in Germany.

After Chancellor Olaf Scholz held a cabinet retreat at the Meseberg palace in Brandenburg last week, the Bitkom president noted: "A year ago, the digital strategy was adopted in Meseberg, and since then, far too little has happened.

“The federal government needs to be more assertive in its digital policy if it aims to achieve the goals it has set for itself before the next elections."

Wintergerst stressed the need to move faster on the digital pact for Germany's schools and the digitalisation of the government and administration.

"The planned austerity measures for digitalisation projects are leading us in entirely the wrong direction."

Wintergerst struck a more positive note in the areas of connectivity and the expansion of Germany's telecommunications infrastructure, where he said Germany had made significant strides in a European context in the past year.

The federal government has said it aims to turn this decade into a 'digital decade' for Germany. The digital strategy includes ensuring access to fibre-optic connections for half of households and businesses in Germany by 2025. Other plans include providing citizens with secure digital identities to enable many administrative processes to be carried out online.

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