What does Smart Country mean in practical terms – and what must Germany do to become one? The recent expert workshop on Smart Country examined this question and others.
Digitalization is one of the key megatrends that will play a crucial role in determining Germany’s future. Almost all areas of life are being affected by it. Digitalization entails a number of risks, such as its potential to create a digital divide in society. Above all, however, it offers significant opportunities for increasing participation.
The 2017 Reinhard Mohn Prize is dedicated to the topic “Smart Country - Connected. Intelligent. Digital.” The Bertelsmann Stiftung is using the prize to highlight the chances digitalization inherently presents - how it can create more and better opportunities for participating, for example, and improve existing networks and structures in a way that ensures everyone is able to participate.
What can we learn from international best practices?
At an expert workshop with Dr. Brigitte Mohn and Dr. Jörg Dräger, initial examples of good practices from a global study were introduced and discussed in Berlin. In addition to specific digital projects and applications, overall government strategies were presented, discussed and evaluated. In their discussions, the participants focused on how the practices and strategies could be adapted for use in Germany.
By expanding on well-established smart concepts such as Smart City, which deals with urban spaces, Smart Country looks at the standards of living present in society and the possibilities that everyone has for participating. The goal is to put the necessary technical and social infrastructure in place that creates equal living standards in all regions and for all demographic groups, regardless of an individual’s specific environment.
Turning digital strategies into reality
A society becomes a Smart Country once it applies digital strategies in way that is people-centered and that increases participation. Above all, this means providing access to those individuals who would like to benefit from digitalization - in their work, for example, or in the areas of health care and mobility. It also means ensuring adequate Internet access to those who do not currently have it.
Germany is not a digital leader. In international comparisons, for example, it is in the bottom tier when it comes to the size of its fiber-optic network. Germany needs more and better ideas if it does not want to be left behind as the world’s digital transformation progresses. Moreover, the appropriate framework conditions must be put in place if a people-centered digital transformation is going to happen in Germany at all.
The expert workshop took a detailed look at examples of good practice in a number of areas: work and the economy, health and care, learning and information, policy and public administration, mobility and logistics, and national digital strategies. The examples show where Germany stands relative to its peers – and what it can learn from them so as not to get left behind as global developments unfold.
The examples will be presented here shortly. Several good practices identified by the global search are already available at @SmartCountryDE.
The experts included:
Dr. Wilfried Aulbur, Managing Partner of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, Mumbai, India; Michael Ganser, Senior Vice President Central Europe, Cisco, Wallisellen, Switzerland; Willi Kaczorowski, Strategy Consultant for Digital Transformation; Christian Rupp, Spokesperson for the government platform Digital Austria, Commissioner for Digitization; Dirk Stocksmeier, CEO of Init AG; Prof. Britta Wrede, CITEC Center of Excellence for Cognitive Interaction Technology, University of Bielefeld.