The criticism that Germany’s economy is lagging behind in international comparison is growing. It is often said that digitization in particular is oversleeping the republic. Telekom boss Tim Höttges is now calling for massive investments in this area.
“‘Made in Germany’ is battered” – when it comes to the state of the German economy, Telekom boss Tim Höttges speaks plainly. In a speech at the Digital X trade fair in Cologne, the manager said that the country had been resting on its laurels for too long. The claim to leadership has been lost, one has become “too complacent”.
The country is facing immense challenges: the energy crisis, inflation, and the shortage of skilled workers. “It must be our aim to be the leader again,” says Höttges. This applies in particular to the area of digitization. Germany let itself be left behind here. “In the ranking of the 27 EU countries for digitization, Germany slipped from 11th to 13th place,” Höttges noted.
“We are falling behind,” said the Telekom boss. But that shouldn’t be the case, because “innovation is the prosperity of tomorrow”. Höttges is very clear about what needs to happen: more investment in digitization is needed. Optimally, these investments would amount to six percent of gross domestic product (GDP) annually. In 2021, however, Germany invested only one percent of GDP.
“How is ‘Made in Germany’ supposed to survive if Germany doesn’t invest in innovations?” asked Höttges. The manager compared the country to a frog sitting happily in a pot that is getting warmer and warmer. “If the frog were thrown directly into hot water, it would jump out immediately.” But the frog stays in the pot – “until it scalds.”
How can Germany tackle its problems? Höttges appealed to politicians and companies to look more closely at the “third horizon” instead of just the “first horizon”. “Don’t always just act in the short term, but invest in the long term” must now be the motto. He also sees his own company as responsible. “We want to form the lifelines of digitization,” says Höttges.
Telekom wants to invest six billion euros in digitization every year. Höttges promised to push ahead with fiber optic and 5G expansion. But something must also be done on the government side. In Greece, Höttges noted, more than 1,500 government services have now been digitized – “everything is done via apps”.
Germany, on the other hand, will probably not even be able to digitize 35 government services this year. “It’s a scandal how digitization is going in German authorities,” criticized Höttges. That’s why it takes “a decade of effort” to bring “Made in Germany” back to life. “Now it’s time to clean up what’s left behind,” says Höttges.