eco Association: Five Theses on the 2023 German Digital Policy

eco Chair of the Board Oliver Süme: The time for assessment and analysis is over. The German traffic light government must now finally get down to implementation!

  • Data economy and sustainability are the most important drivers of digital transformation
  • Digital policy must detach itself from the dogma of federalism

Sustainability and the further increase in data-driven processes will continue to be the most important drivers of the digital transformation of the economy and society in 2023, according to the prognosis of eco – Association of the Internet Industry.

The German traffic light government must now resolutely tackle the major roadblocks of digitalisation in Germany: this is the call from eco Chair of the Board Oliver Süme: “The time for assessment and analysis is over. I expect the traffic light government to finally get down to implementing things in its second year in office,” says Süme. “The coalition must now swiftly resolve open issues regarding digital policy responsibilities and then tackle the decisive digital policy course settings for digital transformation in Germany.”

From the Internet industry’s point of view, the aspects at the top of the digital policy to-do list include the transformation of a data-centric and data-based economy, the modernisation and digitalisation of administrative processes, as well as secure framework conditions for digital infrastructure operators in Germany. The federal and state governments should not shy away from uncomfortable debates: “It is obvious that federalism is encumbering the rapid digital transformation in the education sector, for example. If we do not want to lose touch with our European neighbours, we must now also discuss breaking up federal structures and giving the federal government more competences for digital education,” says eco Chair of the Board Oliver Süme.

eco – Association of the Internet Industry formulates further guiding principles for digital transformation in its Five Theses on the 2023 Digital Policy:

  1. Without a digital budget, digitalisation in Germany will not gain momentum

The digital awakening will not take place cost-free. The measures planned by the German federal government cost money. To this end, in its coalition agreement, the traffic light coalition had actually stipulated the introduction of a central digital budget. However, this has not been inserted into the 2023 federal budget. It should therefore be a top priority for the German federal government to finally clarify the financial responsibilities of its digital policy at the beginning of this new year so that it can ultimately initiate the projects defined in the Digital Strategy. Because without an additional digital budget, many ministries are keeping their ambitions on the back burner. This budget must be negotiated between the Ministries of Digital Affairs and Transport as well as Economy and Climate, together with the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Chancellery.

  1. The data economy urgently needs clear rules

Data is a driver and essential resource for the digital transformation of the state, the economy and society in all sectors. The meaningful interconnection and smart evaluation of the growing amounts of data is the key to innovation and sustainable growth. However, a large number of unresolved issues in connection with the use of data in an economic context continue to lead to an innovation backlog.

After the failed kick-off of the Digital Strategy at the end of last year, the German federal government must now quickly deliver this strategy and finally create clear and proportionate rules for the exchange of data and incentives for standardisation and the establishment of data trustees, and also increase the availability of public sector data. Existing ambiguities and uncertainties must be reduced. Factors that are also at the the top of the 2023 Digital Policy Agenda are the establishment of the Data Institute, as announced in the coalition agreement, and the binding and future-oriented regulations for the handling of data in the mobility and health sectors.

  1. Digitalisation is part of the solution on the path to a climate-friendly and sustainable future

Germany and Europe will only be able to achieve their ambitious climate goals through the systematic use of digital technologies. Among the areas where CO2 savings potentials can be found are the mobility transition, efficiency increases through Industry 4.0, Smart Cities and other application settings.

However, sustainable and climate-neutral digitalisation can only succeed on the strength of political support. This requires a politically controlled phase-out of fossil fuels, the rigorous roll-out of renewable energies, the facilitation of systematic waste heat recovery from data centres, a comprehensive roll-out of gigabit infrastructures, and the utilisation of 5G technologies. In addition, the increased deployment of so-called Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) can also lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions in the use of digital infrastructures in Germany.

  1. Digital administration remains the most important condition for a competitive digital location

The digitalisation of administrative services is a central factor for digital transformation; at the same time, it is unfortunately still one of the biggest roadblocks.

The German federal government must strengthen and promote the development of standards for secure digital identities, ideally within a European or international framework. It must also advance the development and provision of open standards for digital administrative applications more rigorously and, above all, more rapidly.

  1. Digital infrastructures secure the resilience of Germany as a digital location

Digital infrastructures, especially data centres, are the foundation of the economy and society’s digital transformation. They ensure the smooth operation of digital processes in industry, business, public administration and services and are therefore essential for the functioning, sovereignty and sustainability of Germany as a digital and business location.

The German federal government’s current energy policy confronts data centre operators with contradictory regulatory approaches. While the industry is currently not taken into account in the German electricity price brake, the new German Energy Efficiency Act classifies data centres as energy-intensive and obliges them to meet requirements that are in part questionable from both a technical and a business perspective. In the worst-case scenario, this could lead to an exodus of the data centre industry to other countries, a development which could hardly be politically desirable.


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