Germany's IT branch is showing signs of recovery just as the government kicks off a year-long program focused on promoting information technology. But Germany still has catching up to do.
Germany needs to exhibit more global IT vision
Going by the calculations of the World Economic Forum, Germany's IT sector has its work cut out for it.
After placing 14 in the organization's internationally-respected IT index in 2004-2005, Germany slipped to 17th last year, according to a newly published survey. The Global Information Technology Report, which measures the involvement of a country's economy in the global information technology network, placed European countries like Sweden and Iceland ahead of Germany. The US placed first.
The news should be incentive enough for the German government to devote full attention to a year-long Ministry of Education and Research program push to promote Germany's IT sector in 2006. The program includes school competitions designed to recruit the next generation of IT workers, a vanishing group in Germany.
Giving the branch direction
The program "will raise awareness, it will awake interest in a branch that apparently has a difficult time explaining itself," said Bernhard Rohleder, managing director of BITKOM, Germany's IT lobbying organization.
The industry suffers from a dearth of qualified candidates
The program could also provide the sort of guidance needed in the IT industry. August Wilhelm Scheer, professor at the Institute for Economic Information at the University of Saarbrücken, said the government needs to loosen the reins and give the IT branch direction.
"In every country where there's been a turnaround, be it Finland, North Ireland, or South Korea, there is always a political concept behind it that wants to see the information technology area pushed forward," he said.
Following the dot-com bubble burst, and a severe dearth of qualified employees that prompted German politicians to introduce a Green Card specifically for the IT industry, the branch shows signs of recovery. Together with the overall improved economic climate, the Munich-based Ifo Institute's new economic index on Tuesday mentioned an upswing in new jobs in the IT sector.
A first good test
When it comes to information technology, Germany belongs "in the top group with a few other countries," said Matthias Jarke, the head of the renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology.
The initial electronic toll collect system malfunctioned and was widely panned
To prove it, Germany this year plans to introduce a new health care card that is outfitted with a chip filled with comprehensive patient information. The most advanced card of its kind in the world will link an estimated 80 million cards with two million completely different systems located in hospitals, doctor's and insurance offices.
"Such … projects always have a positive effect on exports," Jarke said.
Should the country pull it off, that is: A similar national effort to build high-tech toll collection system spearheaded by Deutsche Telekom and DaimlerChrysler had major problems before it was finally introduced in 2005.