Leaders at the IT summit in Darmstadt have pointed to the Internet to help Germany find its way out of the current recession. Big investments in Internet infrastructure are a top priority, say the summit's participants.
Salvation for the German economy could come in cables
All Germans should have access to high-speed, broadband Internet within the next three to four years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared on Thursday, Nov. 20 at the third national IT summit. Why is this so important? Because, according to politicians and economists, at 150 billion euros ($187 billion) per year, the Internet has a higher economic value than the auto industry or machine construction -- making it the perfect candidate to guide Germany back to the path of financial prosperity.
"The global financial crisis and its effects on the real economy clearly show us that we must invest more in research and development,” said Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan.
Merkel understands the importance of getting more familiar with technology
Economics Minister Michael Glos underlined that a solid IT infrastructure is undoubtedly the foundation for a strong business location. Glos envisions an infrastructure so advanced in the future that villages and small cities will be just as connected as larger metropolises. According to data from the ministry, approximately 98 percent of households currently have access to a broadband connection.
With the Internet identified as such an important factor in improving the economy, the federal government will therefore present a program by the beginning of 2009, allocating 30 million euros for five years to boost research for more security in IT.
“We need to make the Internet more secure and reliable,” said Schavan. The Ministry of Economics also called for the expansion of fiber optic cable networks and mobile broadband networks.
Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann warned that soon the current copper cable network will not be able to cope with the rapidly increasing data traffic on the Internet. He estimates the amount of investment Germany requires to be in the 40 to 50 billion-euro range for the next 10 to 15 years, with the need Europe-wide at 300 billion euros.
A question of geography
Oberman warns that soon the current cables won't be able to support the growing traffic on the Internet
Emphasizing that the current phase of economic stagnation must be used to create the general framework for improving the Internet, Merkel also noted that the Internet expansion is related to equal opportunity.
“The question is, whether rural areas remain attractive for living,” she said. After all, those who live in areas where there are no platforms for the Internet cannot use the rapidly-developing applications.
Green information technology and the application of information and communication technology in public services and health care were also discussed.
Just under 1.5 million people currently work in Germany's IT branch.