June 21, 2019

Think outside the political box!

By Dorothee Bär, MdB, Minister of State to the Federal Chancellor, Federal Government Commissioner for Digital Affairs of Germany.


We live in a digital world. That’s a fact. Another fact – at least for me – is that “politics begins with the contemplation of reality.” These words were originally spoken by the social democrat Kurt Schumacher. Yet Volker Kauder, former chairman of the CDU/CSU group in the German Parliament, often uses them, as well – and I would like to do the same when it comes to the tasks and challenges of political discourse and action in a world of constant change and technological progress.

In view of these facts, every government has the task of not only taking part in the moral, social and economical debate on what our digital society should look like, but also creating the legal and political framework that mirrors the outcome of these discussions.

This is indeed what we have done – and, to be honest, it’s taken a while. Since as far back as 2010 we have been discussing how the legislative, judicial and executive branches should respond to the ubiquitous changes and developments that are deeply affecting our everyday lives at every level.

Today, in 2018, we have made considerable progress. The Federal Government under Chancellor Angela Merkel has not only defined numerous fields and topics that play a vital role in our digital age, but has also set an agenda and established a number of important institutions that are tasked with addressing this new reality.

You are right to think that, as Minister of State for Digitalisation, I am one of these newly created institutions – one that in fact was established only a few months ago. This represents a huge step for the German government. It proves it is truly contemplating the fact that we live in a digital society, a society that is undergoing constant change due to rapid development brought about by technological innovation.

However, my work is accompanied and complemented by various other institutions, such as the Data Ethics Commission of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, the Digital Cabinet and the Digital Council. This guarantees that the task of examining the cross-sectional impact of technological progress is dealt with from various angles, not by a single government ministry or representative. The aim is for ministry officials, scientific and economic experts, and representatives from across society to engage in a discourse on what Germany and Europe should look in the digital age.

The above-mentioned cross-sectional character must be mirrored when it comes to exchanging expertise. Both creative input and experience play a major role. This is why it is absolutely necessary to include people from various fields, people who may previously not have been involved in political debates and the formulation of government policy.

When developing policies, we need to constantly remind ourselves to think outside the box and talk to individuals whose ideas may in the past have been overlooked. We must talk to people who already live a digital life, who already now are trying out completely new ways of working, relying on innovative means of communication, and examining fields that may not appear relevant today, but will help shape the world of tomorrow.

In a nutshell: one major task of the digital agenda must be to break down those walls and burst those bubbles that encapsulate the different members of, and stakeholders in, our society – so that we can set the table for life in the digital age.


Picture by German Federal Government.


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