The coalition negotiations for the coalition deal between the SPD, Bündnis 90/The Greens and the FDP are now drawing to a close in the individual specialist working groups. What is now on the agenda are negotiations between the party leaders on questions that have yet to be resolved or which are under dispute, and the ministry set-up in the future government coalition. eco – Association of the Internet Industry has followed the consultations to date and, in the run-up to the elections, had already formulated important criteria for success for digital policy in the coming years with its Internet Policy Agenda.
In this final phase of the coalition negotiations, eco would like to take this opportunity to point out a number of keystones with which the coalition partners can now set the course for Internet and digital policy in Germany.
Impetus for the Coalition Negotiations:
Bring resources for digitalisation together in one Ministry for Digitalisation
In order to have key digitalisation issues coordinated and strategically addressed, the new German federal government must establish a consistent digital strategy with clear priorities, goals and measurable success criteria. Only when priorities and goals are clear can their implementation be systematically driven forward. In seeing this through, a Ministry for Digitalisation is the optimal approach to addressing and managing these challenges and requirements in the German federal government.
Accelerate planning and roll-out of digital infrastructures
For the Gigabit Society to become a reality, high-performance digital infrastructures must be constructed and rolled out. The duration and requirements of planning, approval and construction procedures are a disadvantage for Germany as a business location. To ensure the establishment of strategically important and future-proof digital infrastructures and telecommunications networks, planning, approval and construction procedures must be accelerated and made more efficient.
Promote resilience and digital sovereignty
Companies need to make their structures and value chains more robust in order to be better equipped for crises. To achieve this, ongoing efforts are required. This means that the necessary investments in digitalisation should be driven forward in the coming years by promoting process management and cloud infrastructures. In the interests of increasing Germany’s digital sovereignty, this also calls for the provision and availability of high-performance digital infrastructures, the development of open standards, and the promotion of relevant structures such as Gaia-X.
Introduce standards for efficient digital infrastructures
For the energy transition to be a success across all sectors of the economy and society as a whole, a major roll-out of renewable energies is needed to bring about the ecological modernisation of Germany’s energy system. The sustainability of digital infrastructures not only requires the use of renewable energies, but also their efficient operation. While Germany does have an approach for energy-efficient data centres – in the form of the German “Blue Angel” – a lack of international compatibility and overly rigid requirements lead to a low level of acceptance. Suitable approaches for standards should therefore be sought in the European context.
Revise competitive energy costs for digital infrastructures
Digital infrastructures have a similar electricity consumption pattern to energy-intensive industries. However, while they pay the applicable electricity price including charges, levies and taxes, they do not receive related concessions. In order to ensure the international competitiveness of data centres in Germany in particular, energy prices must be competitive. In addition to abolishing the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), the levy, surcharge and tax system for electricity should be revised.
From the word go, shape IT security in a consistent manner
The digitalisation of the economy and society can only succeed if there is trust in IT security. This requires governmental support and funding of IT security, especially encryption. The German federal government should drive innovation and improvement in IT security and make a clear, unequivocal commitment to strong encryption and ensure that vulnerabilities are communicated to the developers of products and services as quickly as possible.
Review surveillance powers
As envisaged in the exploratory talks, the comprehensive examination of the state’s powers of surveillance and the associated revision of the security architecture should be the starting point for the coalition’s future security policy. In this context, the introduction of time limits should be examined and qualitative evaluations provided for. Existing laws on the use of State Trojans must be aligned with the current constitutional requirements. The future German federal government can set an example by taking the initiative and instigating the repeal of the regulations on blanket data retention in Germany. This would also strengthen civil rights in digital communication and give companies the legal and planning security they urgently need.
Strengthen the “Notice and Take Down” approach
The “Notice and Take Down” approach is central to combatting illegal content. In this respect, well-staffed and technically well-equipped law enforcement agencies are essential, as are low-threshold reporting possibilities for Internet users. Internet complaints offices offer this kind of accessible and anonymous reporting possibility. They evaluate reported content independently and work for the quick take down of illegal content. In order to support and strengthen the important work of the Internet complaints offices, continuous state co-financing is required.
Abstain from offloading state tasks to private companies
The German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) has created extensive obligations for social network operators to curb illegal content. Operators are required to forward certain content relevant to criminal law to the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) along with the user name, IP address and port number. Instead of increasingly involving companies in the performance of original state tasks and extending the obligations to cooperate in criminal proceedings, law enforcement agencies should be better equipped in terms of personnel and technology so that they can fulfil their tasks.
Adopt a comprehensive approach to digital education
In digital education, some initial incremental progress has been made, such as with the “Digitalpakt Schule” (Digital Pact for Schools). In addition to the roll-out of digital learning platforms and investments in modern information and communication technology, nationwide concepts for the implementation of digital education are required. Access to digital education – at all levels of the education system and during all phases of the educational pathway – is a prerequisite for the successful digitalisation of the world of work and contributes to overcoming the shortage of skilled workers.