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Germany puts the E in Economy

The promotion of electronic trading, online education and Internet employment projects will form the core of the German government’s latest initiative to boost the economy and stimulate growth.


Job hunters, shoppers and traders are set to benefit from Germany's online push

The German government plans to launch a Web-centered action program in December to encourage Germans to use the Internet in an attempt to promote growth and employment. The ‘Information Society Deutschland 2006’ initiative hopes to capitalize on Germany’s rapid and overwhelming embrace of online culture and widen the use of the technology in business and education.

Although Germany is one of the fastest growing countries for Internet usage in Europe, the German government believes the number of users outweighs the number of companies providing services online. But the ratio needs balancing if the Internet is to be of any use to Germany’s ailing economy.

More than half of the German population is already online, providing those companies which offer services over the Internet with an ever-expanding potential customer base.

Missed opportunities

CeBIT - Computermesse in Hannover

Is your business connected?

However, not even half of all small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Germany make use of the Internet and less than one-tenth have any web presence. Thus, many companies fail to reach their full customer base and market strength. Figures show that more and more Germans are using their Internet connection to gain access to products they need and want.

In the first half year of this year, German households bought goods online for a value of €2.4 billion ($2.75 billion) and the forecast for 2003 as a whole is €5.3 billion, according to market research institute GfK. This forecast would mean an increase by €600 million compared with 2002.

Online hope for economy

Still, it's not enough for the German government. It is convinced that getting more companies to offer their goods online would open up even more opportunities, increase the amount spent online and help businesses sell more. The hope is that the economy would begin to profit from these online exchanges and that Internet trading would help towards recovery and growth.

“We want Internet usage to increase to around 75 percent. It currently lies above 50 percent,” said Martin Cronenberg from the Federal Employment Ministry. “We have around 10 percent of SMEs using the Internet. We want this percentage to climb to 40 percent by 2008.”

Increasing skills

Kinder vor Computer

More children will learn necessary skills.

The increase in online trading is only one target of the government initiative. In a bid to expand the job opportunities of high school graduates and the unemployed, the ‘Information Society Deutschland 2006’ project will work towards providing increased access to the Internet and more training in computer skills, both at school level and in re-training.

Despite the on-going success of the ‘Schools Online’ project, which aims to provide Internet connections for all German school children, almost two-thirds of pupils have never taken a computer course to learn the skills that most jobs require and only around 29 percent use a computer in their lessons.

Job search online

Arbeitssuchende in einem Hamburger Arbeitsamt

Online hope for those without jobs.

For the unemployed, besides increased training in computer skills, the plan includes the launch of the government’s 'virtual job market’ in December, which German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has called “Europe’s largest job and training exchange.” Studies show that 80 percent of online users have used the Internet to look for jobs and almost 20 percent of them have been successful.

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