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Germany

Berlin Unveils Plan for Greater Net Access

Though more than 50 percent of all Germans use the Internet, Berlin would like to have three-quarters of the population online by 2005.

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The German government is compiling a new legislative recipe to get more of its people online.

Earlier this week, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s cabinet approved its “Information Society Germany 2006” action plan, which calls for 75 percent of Germans over the age of 14 to become Internet users within the next three years.

The initiative is intended to spur growth and create jobs in the growing information technology and telecommunications sector. Berlin also wants to set an online example for others by requiring all contracts for government business to be processed online.

"In the past few years, we’ve made good progress," said Edelgard Bulmahn, the federal minister of education and research. "Innovation in the information and communications sector correlates with the creation of new and secure jobs. With the action program we have created the conditions that will allow Germany to expand its leadership role in high-tech industries."

Germany’s position in the Global Information Technology Report released this year by the World Economic Forum moved up on the world market from 17th place to 10th. More than 4 million people in Germany have broadband Internet connections and the government said as many as 10 million will install ISDN lines in the next six years.

A fast-growing sector

With annual revenues of close to €130 billion and about 750,000 workers, the IT and telecoms sector is one of the largest industries in Germany. More than half of Germany’s industrial companies and 80 percent of exporters use information technologies and electronic systems, Bulmahn said.

Germany has also landed at the leading position internationally in mobile phone technology. Now, the goal is to make it the leader in mobile Internet communications. According to Deputy Education Minister Alfred Tacke, Germany’s telecommunications market is expected to increase by 2 percent again next year, a faster growth rate than that experienced by the United States or Japan.

UMTS arrives this spring

The government has a stated goal of getting 90 percent of its residents to adopt mobile phones by 2006. The introduction next year of domestic services of the UMTS mobile phone standard could help pave the way.

"There’s no longer any doubt that UMTS is a successful project," said Tacke. "Nor is there any doubt that there’s enough demand. It will allow the downloading of videos and films, the downloading of information as well as online shopping. Mobile photography is already a hot seller and the quality is only going to get better. The one problem we still have today is that with the mobile infrastructure. The GSM and UMTS networks need to be made compatible with one another."

The government said it has similarly grand ambitions for terrestrial television. By 2015, the country wants to convert all of its radio and television programming to digital. The city of Berlin has already begun broadcasting digital programming and Cologne and other major cities will soon follow.

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