eco New Year’s Reception: SPD Secretary General Calls for “Digital Breakthrough”

Speaking yesterday at the eco New Year's reception about the ongoing coalition negotiations, the Secretary General of the SPD Lars Klingbeil called for a digital breakthrough for Germany: "Digitalization is changing all areas of life. Digital policy must therefore be social policy. It is a question of how we will live and work in the future. We must convert technical progress into social progress – that is the most important task of our time. The breakthrough must happen now."

Oliver Süme, Chairman of the eco Board, welcomed the SPD Secretary General’s intent and added further demands of the Internet industry: "The time of baby steps must draw to a close; the digital transformation has already come far too far without impetus from Germany. While the Grand Coalition may have laid down central tracks with the digital agenda in recent years, in too many areas, Germany is in a poor position compared to other countries. We expect the next federal government to come up with an overall visionary digital concept that places the promotion of innovation center stage and that contains ideas on how digital transformation can be actively shaped in Germany," says Süme.

In the exploratory talks, digital transformation was downgraded to a niche topic, and this relegation must on no account be perpetuated in the coalition negotiations, according to Süme. What is needed is the creation of constructive and economically practical framework conditions for the development, marketing, and use of the Internet and digital technologies, rather than the continued pursuit of a regulatory and containment policy that is geared in the wrong direction and tackles symptoms rather than causes.

The most urgent need for political action remains the issue of broadband expansion and the construction of a Gigabit-capable infrastructure. Here, the CDU/CSU and SPD may have agreed on an implementation target of 2025, but they have not explained how they intend to achieve this goal in concrete terms. If the parties should continue to govern for the next four years within the framework of an extended Grand Coalition, some strategic catching up would definitely be required.

The Chairman of the eco Board also called on the next federal government to recognize and do greater justice in the future to Germany as a business location and to digitalization as an economic factor. From the point of view of the association, this must include both strengthening the hand of politicians specializing in Internet policy in the German Bundestag, and bundling digital competencies. In the past, approaching digitalization as a cross-sectoral theme has often led to the topic getting short shrift. Responsibility for Internet policy issues must be consolidated within the federal government and dealt with under a single ministry.