Why Germany views digitalization as a challenge

German Chancellor Angela Merkel listed digitization along with climate change and refugee issues as the three major challenges facing Germany in her 2020 New Year speech, which shows the importance of digital issues in the German government’s agenda.

In the past few years, the German government has adopted a series of measures in response to the structural changes brought about by digitalization. First, a three-year digital agenda was established in 2014 (2014-2017), and then supplemented by Digital Strategy 2025 in 2016. Germany has established three core goals, namely, to promote economic growth and employment, to enable people to participate in digital life, and to achieve trust and security in the digital world. Since then, the German Ministry of Economic Affairs has released a White Paper on Digital Platforms in March 2017, which contains recommendations on digital order policies.In November 2018, the Federal Government also issued an Artificial Intelligence Strategy to build Germany as an artificial intelligence highland Advantage.

From an international comparison point of view, Germany is stronger than industrial manufacturing and service industries close to industry, and the application and development of Internet infrastructure and digital technology are relatively lagging behind. Germany has the talent base needed to advance digitalization, but the challenge is that companies’ attitudes towards digital technology are cautious and underinvested. In addition, the implementation of innovative ideas and their commercialization are also shortcomings. Therefore, although Germany has made some concrete progress in advancing digitalization in recent years, the German government still believes that there is a huge demand for action. For example, Germany still lags behind in establishing an efficient, full-coverage broadband network.

From Merkel’s statement, as far as Germany is concerned, the digital challenge contains at least three meanings: First, the digital process has profoundly changed all aspects of people’s lives, including working life. Therefore, we must ensure that people can also have jobs in the digital age, instead of being replaced by machines or robots. To this end, we must protect people’s educational opportunities and teach everyone the ability to deal with digital change. In reality, after proposing the “Industry 4.0” strategy, Germany has successively launched measures such as “Education 4.0” and “Labor 4.0”. All sectors of the society have made concerted efforts and plan ahead to make research and judgment on the digital social impact as soon as possible.

Second, the challenge of digital means that people have the courage to think creatively and dare to try new things. The Germans generally give the impression of seeking stability and are relatively cautious about new technologies. A research report released by the German Academy of Engineering and the Körber Foundation also shows that Germans are only in Europe when it comes to thinking that “digitalization will have a positive impact on the economy, society and the quality of life of themselves” Midstream level. Therefore, inspiring German people and businesses to be curious about digital technology, rather than staying in the comfort zone, is a top priority for German society.

Finally, both the aforementioned Digital Platform White Paper and the Artificial Intelligence Strategy have repeatedly emphasized that people must now recognize the ethical and legal boundaries of digital technology development. The digital age also needs to respect human dignity. After all, technology is ultimately about serving people, not the other way around.

The challenge of digitalization also comes from outside Germany. Germany believes that its development in digital technologies and forms of digital economy such as artificial intelligence and platform economy has lagged behind the United States and China, and is worried that this will cause Germany to lose its international competitive advantage in traditional industries. For example, although Germany has a strong automotive industry, it is worried that the lag in the development of driverless cars will make Germany the only supplier of vehicles in the future. In view of this, as stated in the final version of the “Industrial Strategy 2030” document issued by the German Ministry of Economic Affairs in November 2019, Germany wants to participate in the establishment of such “game-changing technologies” and develop corresponding standards. This not only shows that Germany wants to win back global competitiveness in digital technology, but also that it wants to win the status of rule maker rather than be a rule receiver.

In this sense, Germany’s approach to digital challenges is a combination of internal and external. Germany intends to use the “German way” to shape the digital process, not only domestically but also internationally. In order to expand its right of discourse and rulemaking in international competition, Germany is also acting together through the European Union. As a result, the “German way” has been transformed into a “European way”, and its essence is to use European values, rules and regulations. , To give Europe a head start in international digital technology competition.

The digitization process is not only a challenge for Germany or European countries, but also a common challenge for human society. In the process of responding to digital change, Germany pays attention to giving everyone the opportunity and ability to participate in it on an equal footing. It is a forward-looking study of the impact of digital on human life and reflection on the boundaries of digital technology development. These are undoubtedly enlightening for other countries to advance the digital process . However, the intention is to proceed from the “technical sovereignty” and “data sovereignty” arguments, and to engage in technological blockade in the so-called “strategic value chain” is contrary to the free and open digital world advocated by Germany and Europe, and does not help human society. Jointly tap the unlimited potential of digital technology.