Information technology: What is slowing down or driving digitization

information technology
What slows down or drives digitization forward

An employee of the Stuttgart High Performance Computing Center (HLRS) walks between the computer cabinets of a mainframe computer with the project name “Hawk”. photo

© Marijan Murat/dpa

The traffic light government alliance had agreed on a “digital awakening” in the coalition agreement. So far, however, not much has happened. Where else is there a problem? And where is it going well?

Actually, the traffic light coalition had firmly resolved to give Germany’s digitization a strong boost. However, valuable months passed before the concrete goals in the digitization strategy were put on paper. Instead of making headway in international competition, Germany fell two more places to 13th place in the European index for the digital economy and society (Desi) during this period. Why is it that Germany cannot keep up with European leaders such as Finland, Denmark or the Netherlands?

digital management

In no other area are the deficits in digitization in Germany as obvious as in administration. In most offices there are no purely digital workflows. Student unions across Germany are currently struggling with the digitization of BAföG applications and students have to wait a long time for their money. You could submit the BAföG application online. The BAföG offices then have to print them out again for processing. “This is digitization ad absurdum!” Said the Secretary General of the German Student Union, Matthias Anbuhl “tagesschau.de”.

The coalition had promised uncomplicated and fast digital administration. The Internet association Eco, on the other hand, complains that the digitization of administrative services and the reduction in bureaucracy are only progressing slowly. There is hardly any progress in sight when it comes to building a public administration cloud with open interfaces and strict security and transparency requirements.

digital infrastructure

The expansion of the broadband infrastructure has progressed better in recent years than many thought. It is true that many people who are online with a DSL line or cable TV line experience bottlenecks and jerks in their video streams, especially during peak usage times, also because in most cases there is no fiber optic connection to the home. On the other hand, the expansion of the ultra-fast fifth generation of mobile communications (5G) looks pretty good. According to estimates by the mobile communications equipment supplier Ericsson, Germany and other Western European countries are in the fast lane with 5G and will be at the top internationally together with the USA in a few years.

cybersecurity

The new federal government had undertaken a tight program to better protect against cyber attacks. In future, security gaps should not be swept under the table or secretly exploited by secret services. However, the federal government made most of the headlines by forcing Arne Schönbohm, the head of the Federal Office for Information Security, to replace him on the basis of allegations by the ZDF magazine Royale. Eight weeks after being kicked out, the head of the BSI is still vacant, although since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, German cyberspace has also come under increasing threats.

digital identity

In Denmark, citizens can easily and securely identify themselves digitally at authorities, in the doctor’s office or at the driver’s license check. “There, 90 percent of the population use the digital ID almost every day – and it works,” says Bitkom President Achim Berg. The federal government has also realized that many digital projects cannot come about without a functioning digital eID. A secure digital identity is therefore not just one project among many, but a “beacon” of the digital strategy. However, there is still a problem with the implementation.

digital skills

A year ago, the traffic light coalition decided against establishing a powerful digital ministry. Several departments are responsible for the digital: In addition to Digital and Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP), these are primarily Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens). Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) also has a say on issues such as data retention. The cabinet has not yet achieved a “digital boom” with this personnel list, also because Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) gives hardly any impetus on digital issues. In addition, there is no separate budget for ambitious digital projects. The funds required must be financed from the budgets of the relevant ministries.

open-source

In the coalition agreement, the traffic light alliance promised to establish open standards for public IT projects. “Development orders are usually commissioned as open source.” Large parts of the infrastructure in the network already depend on open-source and free projects. The free software scene registered with gratitude and appreciation that the Ministry of Economic Affairs financially supported seven important open source projects this fall in order to strengthen security and data protection on the Internet.

dpa

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