A Year into the German Digital Strategy: Majority of the Population Sees No Progress in Digital Transformation

ecos Managing Director Rabe: Lack of coordination and a diffusion of responsibility in the German federal government are the root causes for the sluggish digitalisation in Germany.

  • Major dissatisfaction: An overwhelming majority of Germans (70%) see no progress in key areas of digital transformation in Germany
  • Main challenges: Need for development primarily in the fields of digitalisation of public authorities and public administration (63%), expansion of digital infrastructure (54%) and cybersecurity (32%)
  • Discrepancy between desire and reality: 86% of Germans believe that the current digital policy does not comply with the coalition governments intention to make Germany a pioneer in digitalisation, as formulated in the coalition agreement
  • International competition: 82% rate Germany as below average in the digital future technologies sphere

In presenting the German Digital Strategy a year ago (31 August 2022), the German federal government’s aim was to create a digital awakening. The stated goal: To bring Germany to the forefront of digitalisation in Europe by 2025. Concrete plans included, for example, a nationwide mobile network, the digitalisation of schools and public authorities, and the creation of data spaces in business and research. The focus was on benefiting citizens, as stated by the coalition government. However, a year into the Digital Strategy, the majority of the population in Germany believes that the German federal government has not yet made much progress in the area of digital transformation. This has been displayed by a recent representative survey conducted by the market and opinion research institute Civey on behalf of eco – Association of the Internet Industry.*

According to the survey, the vast majority (70.1%) of respondents see no progress in key areas of digital transformation.

The survey shows that citizens see the greatest need for action and development primarily in the areas of digitalisation of public authorities and administration (63%), expansion of digital infrastructures (53%) and cybersecurity (33%).

More than a quarter of Germans also see a lot of room for improvement in digital education and smart mobility.

All in all, 86.2% of Germans are of the opinion that the coalition government is not living up to its own aspiration to bring Germany decisively forward in digital transformation on the strength of the Digital Strategy.

“This harsh opinion from the vast majority of the population in Germany is unfortunately not really surprising. Even we, as representatives of the Internet industry, have repeatedly criticised the lack of consistency in implementation plans and the diffusion of responsibility in strategically relevant areas of digital transformation in Germany,” says eco’s Managing Director Alexander Rabe, who is also a member of the Digital Strategy Advisory Board convened by the German federal government. The poor results in the area of digital administration are particularly alarming, as efficient and fast-working public authorities are fundamental prerequisites for the modern state, and are particularly crucial for managing crises, as made clear by the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Rabe, the main causes for the slow progress are deficient coordination and diffusion of responsibility within the German federal government when it comes to digital transformation issues.

“We have a multitude of projects in all ministries; in their implementation, everyone and no one will bear ultimate responsibility until the end of the legislative term. This is not a way to make substantial long-term progress. As the Association of the Internet Industry, we have always advocated for a strong Ministry for Digitalisation that would act across all ministries, would take the lead in strategically relevant digitalisation projects in Germany, and would have an independent digital budget with corresponding control functions. Up until now, all three aspects have not been in place, and the result is evident in the lack of progress across all areas of digital transformation and the bleak public sentiment,” Rabe goes on to say.

“The German federal government’s current position on digitalisation issues is not only detrimental to citizens who are not getting to benefit from the numerous potential solutions that digital technologies and applications can offer in many aspects of life, but it also damages Germany as a digital location, and consequently our international competitiveness.”

Most Germans also share this concern. In comparison with other countries, a full 82.4% already rate Germany as being below average in the realm of future digital technologies.

*The opinion research company Civey surveyed 2,500 people over the age of 18 between 24 and 25 August 2023 on behalf of eco. The results are representative. The statistical error of the overall results is 3.4%.

Alexander Rabe