Germany Needs More Digital Sovereignty


First-Hand Information on Economic Policy on the EFI Annual Report 2022

Dr. Anna Christmann (left) and Professor Irene Bertschek (right) exchanging views on the EFI Annual Report 2022.

It is undisputed that Germany has some catching up to do in terms of digitalisation. Particularly in digital key technologies and the digital transformation of the health care system, the Federal Republic cannot keep up with other countries, criticise the members of the Expert Commission on Research and Innovation (EFI) in their Annual Report 2022. On 28 April 2022, Professor Irene Bertschek, head of the ZEW Research Department “Digital Economy” and member of the EFI Expert Commission, and Dr. Anna Christmann, Commissioner for the Digital Industry and Start-ups of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action, discussed the measures that the government coalition parties envisage with regard to digitalisation as part of the ZEW event series "First-Hand Information on Economic Policy”.

Irene Bertschek emphasised right at the beginning of the event that “to ensure that Germany is not left further behind in digital technologies, funding should keep the European dimension in mind”. One example of this is Germany’s involvement in “important projects that are of great European interest” (Ipcei initiatives). The question of how Germany can become the engine of European technological development was also considered central by Dr. Anna Christmann, member of the Bundestag. “With Intel settling in Magdeburg and a Bosch chip factory in Dresden, we see that first steps are being taken,” Christmann said. The Green politician also sees opportunities for Germany and Europe in open source technology and in the area of sustainability. The potentials of a smart energy transition and climate-neutral data centres are “far from exhausted.”

Christmann expects to see new impulses from the German Agency for Transfer and Innovation (DATI) announced in the coalition agreement. This agency aims to promote social and technological innovations, especially at universities of applied sciences and small and medium-sized universities. In this context, Bertschek criticised that larger companies and universities would be neglected as relevant actors under the current government plans.

Electronic health record as an important element of the digital health care system

In addition to key digital technologies, the digitalisation of health care is also a core topic of this year’s EFI report. Irene Bertschek emphasised that digital technologies “not only make health care more efficient, but also improve its quality”. Therefore, it is high time to develop a digitalisation strategy for the health care system and to implement it quickly. The introduction of an electronic health record is of central importance in this context. “The data stored in the electronic health record should be made as easily accessible as possible for research purposes,” Bertschek demanded. Christmann agreed: In order to improve data availability, it would be essential for all insured persons to have a digital health record as part of an opt-out model.

Bertschek also positively emphasised that Germany was the first country to enable “apps on prescription”. It is now important to create broad acceptance for these apps. This could be achieved, for example, by improving the information base on how digital applications work and their added value, said the economist.