Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz gained an impression of how digitalisation can promote sustainability and protect the environment during his tour of the Digital Summit 2022. To cite just one example, Phoenix, an intelligent agricultural robot, can distinguish between weeds and crops when tilling a field, and can protect the latter.
In another example, it is now possible to map the carbon footprint of electronic products across the entire supply chain using a QR code, which, as a side effect, saves paper. In addition, a mobility compass pilot project can support towns and cities as well as citizens with their low-emission transport planning. "This is a great example of how data can be used wisely," said the Federal Chancellor, praising the many examples of sustainability after his tour.
Digitalisation is at the top of the agenda
Digitalisation is an important aspect of the Federal Government's agenda in all its political endeavours. "We have never stopped working on modernising our society," despite various crises, said Scholz during his subsequent discussion with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, and the President of the industry association Bitkom, Achim Berg.
A first step must be to improve the infrastructure, he said, and many permits were already in the pipeline. However, he continued, the successes of the past were not sufficient in direct comparison with other countries. This applied to the installation of fibre optic cables, broadband expansion, and mobile phone reception, he said.
The Digital Summit 2022 is the central platform for collaboration between politics, business, science, and society for shaping the digital transformation. Work had been done throughout the year based on seven topic-specific platforms, and a range of projects from the federal ministries were presented during the two days of the event. The summit's hosts, Minister of Digital Affairs Volker Wissing and Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck, presented digital projects from their ministries on the second day of the summit.
New data institute to improve data availability
Networked data can be incredibly powerful. The Federal Government is planning to establish a data institute to improve widespread availability of and access to data and its intelligent use in a wide range of fields of application. In particular, the aim of the data institute is to make improvement proposals concerning health, mobility, and political decision-making processes. Around ten million euros will be made available each year between 2023 and 2025 for the establishment and work of the institute.
The data institute is an integral part of the Federal Government's new data strategy, which is currently being developed by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. "In establishing this institute, we are creating a reliable, innovation-friendly environment in which data can be used easily and in a legally secure manner for new business models," explained Minister of Digital Affairs Volker Wissing.
Trust as the key to digital progress
Personal data is already being analysed on a large scale by artificial intelligence (AI); what is required for this are uniform quality and testing standards as well as trustworthy and competitive solutions, which are to be developed in a new AI quality and innovation centre. For example, a transparent, universally valid AI test label is intended to indicate to citizens that their data is being handled in a responsible manner. "This will create trust," said Wissing, "and trust is the key to greater digital progress".
However, as Minister for Economic Affairs Habeck pointed out, "the more we use data, the greater the power of those who own the data," adding that the digital economy required common rules to prevent any abuse of this power. He said that such processes took longer in democracies than in authoritarian states, but that Germany and Europe should not use this as an excuse. The major shared task would be to make good quality data available through the use of common standards and to establish a culture of data sharing, whilst at the same time providing adequate data protection, Habeck continued.
Germany currently ranks 13th in the European Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI); the Federal Government's goal is to be among the top 10, which is why it developed the Digital Strategy for Germany. In addition to data, this will require high-speed networks, digital identities, and modern registers, as well as common international norms and standards, which are central to all of the federal ministries’ digital projects. For more information, please see Digitalstrategie-Deutschland.de.