Despite the positive prevailing mood, digitalization has been slow to take hold in Germany. And added to this, sceptics suggest it will result in the loss of jobs. But this scepticism is based on a limited awareness, according to eco CEO Harald A. Summa. In this interview he explains this and the chances that digitalization brings with it.
Mr Summa, according to the most recent YouGov survey, the majority of those surveyed are convinced of the positive impact of digitalization on the economy. Do you also see it this way?
In the first place, I’m pleased that majority see it that way and this perception is in line with the facts. The importance of the Internet industry for Germany can be seen in the forecast for the growth rate of 12 percent annually until 2019. But not only there. We are currently experiencing the merging of all sectors with the digital ecosystem. The Internet has long since become the basis of many business models. Processes are becoming more efficient and resources are being freed up, and this can ultimately strengthen everything that is “Made in Germany”.
What role does the Internet of Things play in this?
You can see the benefit of the Internet of Things if you look at the connected devices in isolation. The initial potential is found in devices that are connected to each other. When as many parts of the ecosystem as possible – including delivery chains, customer management, and machinery – are integrated, then we can see what the Internet of Things is capable of. Processes are tightened, process steps are segmented and automated, and what’s also very important: breakdowns are minimized.
Despite this, there are always sceptics who, for example, warn of job losses. What do you say to them?
The scepticism is always in connection with the fact that digitalization in its current phase is perceived predominantly as a tool for increasing efficiency. That releases resources – also human ones. So far, such developments have ultimately been largely positive for the employment market – in the end, there have – as a rule – been more jobs than previously, and for the individual worker there has been worthwhile re-training.
But we should not count on it staying this way in the future. Rather, we should do something about it. This includes not simply using digital transformation as a way to make existing work more efficient, but also to create new business models. More entrepreneurial courage is needed. But we should also create a better and more level playing field. Whether the bill goes up again will depend whether we organize existing value chains more efficiently, or whether we successfully create new ones.
What, in your eyes, is needed for digitalization to be successful?
The foundation is our digital infrastructure, and it is unfortunately lagging behind in international comparison. In Germany, there are still business people who still refuse to have video conferences with their international business partners, because they don’t want to embarrass themselves with their puny broadband. The Gigabit society doesn’t look like this. I’m all the more confident, when it comes to the people. We are very well equipped with competence, openness, and above all confidence.