The Internet Economy Foundation (IE.F) was established as an inquisitive think tank, an independent advisor and a competent dialogue partner in the dynamic environment of digitisation and digital transformation. It aims to be an impartial organisation and a pioneering voice for politics, the economy and society. It provides information about the latest developments and defines the interests of the German and European Internet economy in a global context.
“Competititon has to stay fair – be it in digital markets or in traditional ones.”
Our Core Subjects and Views
50 billion to boost growth and to catch up with world’s digital leaders. The German venture capital scene is developing steadily, but slowly. Therefore, German and European start-ups need better financial instruments to obtain growth capital to close the gap on front-running nations. After all, it was mainly due to government contracts and investments that Silicon Valley became to be the world’s centre of digital innovation and continues to maintain this role. In Germany, a stimulus of 50 billion euros is needed – borne by public/private partnership.
The future needs gigabit networks. High speed Internet access is the key to the networked economies of tomorrow. Germany and Europe cannot afford to settle for under-ambitious compromises with regards to its official broadband targets; they have to make a bold transition towards becoming gigabit societies. Priority has to be given to the roll out of fibre-optic infrastructure through installing ‘Fiber to the Home’ (FTTH), as well as high performance 5G mobile networks. Only gigabit networks provide the necessary future-proof capacities to guarantee high-speed applications at lowest latencies in areas such as Industry 4.0, eHealth, home entertainment and the Internet of Things.
An end to data monopolies. To date not a single one of the world’s 20 biggest digital companies was founded in Europe. Especially those among them who act as platform operators now hold key positions in global digital ecosystems. They customise, curate and filter individual user experiences of the Internet as a whole, or certain sections of it. Currently fragmented markets and a relatively ineffective European competition law prevent the emergence of a European counterweight to leading American and Asian platform operators. To ensure fair competition, the powers of monopolies must be constrained, and market-dominating platforms such as operating systems should be appropriately regulated to ensure neutrality. This can be achieved through transparency and the equal treatment of different services. Especially in the online world and across digital markets, users must be guaranteed a freedom of choice.
More data sovereignty for Europe's citizens. Responsible and empowered consumers should be able to decide for themselves how their personal data is used. This fundamental right must be protected. We are committed to advocating for appropriate and timely regulation that guarantees sovereignty over personal data, without constraining the innovative capacity of the digital economy. This requires careful differentiation between the innovative potential of pseudonymised data and data which can be traced back to an individual. The use and the importance of anonymised and pseudonymised data is set to increase and will necessarily play an ever more important role, especially in the areas of health and traffic control. The high level of data protection in Europe must be preserved in order to guarantee sovereignty over personal data. Moreover, services and business models which adhere to strict EU standards are likely to gain a competitive advantage.
Clearly allocated competencies must replace current departmental paralyses. Digital transformations appear to resemble largely uncontrolled processes across many member states of the EU. Without a clear grouping and allocating of competencies, digital strategies and agendas are likely to remain nothing more than empty promises. Especially in Germany, a large number of political departments fight turf wars over varying competencies, making coherent national digital governance largely ineffective. Therefore, overcoming political parochialism must become the guiding principle of digital governance. As one of the greatest socio-political challenges of our time, a successful digital transformation requires leadership from one hand. Germany should bundle its competences in digital governance in one department by setting up a ministry for digital transformation.
As important as reading and writing. Computer languages have become the lingua franca of our time. Personal and corporate digital skill-sets are essential to safeguarding our prosperity. Nine out of ten jobs in the future will require a minimum level of digital literacy. In order to safeguard its claim as a leader in research and innovation, Germany will have to transition its leadership through expanding its digital competencies. It has already proven to do so successfully in the automobile industry and the mechanical engineering sector through public-private excellence clusters. Besides the need to digitally empower employees, there is also the need to digitally empower consumers and citizens. Therefore, computer sciences and digital media have to be more strongly integrated throughout all educational offerings.
Think big, act fast, be bold. In the face of challenging digital transformations, Germany and Europe requires a new attitude towards entrepreneurship and risk taking. Germany needs to meet the challenges posed by the digitisation of industries with more bravery, self-confidence and less despondency. Through embracing a new business culture of confidence and experimentation, Germany is better placed to defend its positions as a market leader in many industry sectors. Hesitancy, however, holds the danger to lose a position of leadership to an international competitor. Especially due to its high level and recognised potential to innovate, Germany is well placed to successfully transition into and maintain a spot in the group of leading global digital nations.