It doesn’t work without digitization, after all, politicians are largely in agreement on this. But there is still no real plan – or a ministry – in place.
After the election is before the election. Digital politics still needs a home in order to escape the decades-long diffusion of responsibility in federal politics and finally to develop the effectiveness that is necessary.
The parties are still controversial about the need for a separate ministry for digital policy. Some believe that digital policy should be a top priority and should be decided in the Chancellery. It has been there for the last four years. Little has happened. Digitization is not a priority in everyday politics or in election campaigns. In the meantime we no longer gamble away the future, but are so far behind that it is more of an oversleeping of the present, which is caused by the shock and helplessness. Nobody is satisfied with it, but nobody wants to tackle the issue either.
A concrete example of why digital politics needs its own house that bundles and distributes specialist political, bureaucratic and content-related expertise is the ID wallet. An app was created from a shop window project by the Federal Chancellery, which should be ready quickly before the federal election. An app with which you can digitize your ID card and driver’s license. A great idea. Once again, nobody looked at the technical details, and after the app received underground ratings, it was removed from the app stores.
Again, the same mistakes are made in the public digital infrastructure: no looking left to the other showcase projects for digital identities that are currently running, no interoperability, no use of proper standards.
The fact that companies make such mistakes is one thing, but structurally it is not noticeable in 2021, the other. The latter in particular shows a systemic gap in the executive that is becoming virulent again and again: No department has the responsibility to standardize digitization and maintain an overview of the emerging technologies. Nobody perceives the cross-section.
Even if the Minister of State for Digitization wrote in December 2020 under the title “ID card in smartphone and more”, “A holistic approach is necessary”, she always seems overwhelmed with such a holistic approach when it comes to technical details. That is no wonder, as it does not have its own budget rights. Otherwise, one also has the feeling that when it comes to state digital infrastructure, it is a lot about shop windows and little about what is behind it.
Anyone who wanted to have success as a digital politician in the past ten years actually only had to know one Tocotronic song by heart and repeat at every point “Digital is better”.
First it was the internet, then platform business models, crowdfunding, crowd investing, artificial intelligence and blockchain, now there are quantum computing and digital identities. Anyone who has paid close attention will not have escaped the fact that Germany has so far not been able to celebrate any particular successes in any of these fields. However, digital politics was always ready as a lobbyist for these new technologies. And that is important and a good thing. The only thing is that it doesn’t help to make the state more digital. It doesn’t help to digitize the small-scale processes that hardly work in analog form.
If something is really supposed to happen, we need structural solutions and a powerful voice that is heard more than all digital political selfies put together. A ministry that puts processes to the digital test bench, that checks, controls and promotes with expertise.
Continuing digitization without control in “it will be somehow” mode burns up tax money, innovative strength, effectiveness, lifetime and belief in the competencies of state institutions.
You can take digitization seriously – or you can leave it.