A Question of Digital Sovereignty

The enduring attractiveness of Germany as a location will depend, among other factors, on its digital infrastructure. The question of digital sovereignty also plays an important role, maintains Dr. Béla Waldhauser, Leader of the eco Competence Group Datacenter Infrastructure. In a short interview, he also expounds on the importance of local data centers.

Dr. Waldhauser, why should Germany invest more in data centers and broadband networks?

As far as digitalization is concerned, Germany is still situated in the rear midfield of industrialized countries. However, it has to be understood that a high-performance digital infrastructure is a prerequisite for further, healthy economic growth.

In my view, the digital sovereignty of our country plays a major role here. Rather than becoming more dependent than necessary on other countries, we should instead invest more than ever before in data centers and broadband networks in Germany, and should support investments in digital infrastructure.

More and more companies are using cloud applications offered by large providers. Why do we still need more data centers in Germany?

Many people are under the impression that, "the cloud comes from the (data) power outlet...” But behind this lies an ever-expanding infrastructure consisting of high-performance broadband networks and highly available data centers. Because at the end of the day, the data must be stored and processed somewhere.

We therefore have to determine whether this can continue to be done in Germany or whether it will increasingly take place abroad due to our inadequate digital infrastructural conditions. Anyone in favor of digital sovereignty in Germany should also support the further expansion of data centers in our country.

There are unquestionably locational disadvantages for data centers in Germany. What are the most urgent ones that you think need to be resolved?

In my opinion, there are essentially three disadvantages to Germany as a location. One of these concerns the very slow and cumbersome processes for getting a building permit in Germany. Given the current strong growth, I would like to see us being able to obtain a building permit within a maximum time frame of three months.

The second weakness is the very slow expansion of broadband networks in Germany. This affects both business and private customers. As I mentioned earlier, Germany is still situated in the rear midfield of industrialized countries. We are thus standing in our own way and should rectify this situation as quickly as possible.

And finally, the incredibly high electricity costs in Germany are a real obstacle to investment. Yes, we are growing at a rate of around 10 to 12 percent per year. But our neighboring countries in Europe are currently experiencing double the growth rates due to electricity costs being just half as expensive. Here, we must ask ourselves the question as to whether we really want our data to be stored abroad, purely as a consequence of the aforementioned competitive disadvantages in Germany.

Despite these disadvantages: What makes Frankfurt in particular so attractive?

Apart from its importance as Germany’s most important financial center, Frankfurt has an excellent infrastructure. Naturally, there’s the airport – but there are also vast fiber optic connections available for data centers. And last but not least, DE-CIX, as the world's largest Internet Exchange, contributes to Frankfurt’s attractiveness.

I would estimate that in Frankfurt you can connect with well over 500 telecommunications and Internet service providers. All of this has led to Frankfurt’s becoming the Internet capital of Germany, perhaps even of Europe.