DWhile German companies see the data industry as promising, more than a third of them see Germany as painful at best in a global comparison. This is the result of a representative survey conducted by the Bitkom digital industry association. While 29 percent of the 600 companies surveyed already see the country lagging behind in the race for the so-called data economy, 13 percent believe Germany is one of the pioneers; four percent believe they are the leader.
“We need to rethink that Germany can actually play a leading role in the data economy,” said Bernhard Rohleder, CEO of Bitkom. “We are in a phase where new data-driven business models are emerging all over the world. Politicians must give freedom so that such innovations can also flourish in Germany. “
Data as a new resource
Global data business is already estimated at around $ 200 billion a year. Data collection and use will completely change as a result of the digitization of entire industries. The amount of data alone generated by sensors on all kinds of machines will increase exponentially. American corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Meta see data in what was once oil for industrial societies. China has declared digital data one of the economy’s primary production factors, alongside land, capital and labor. Europeans want to keep pace and are developing technical initiatives and a binding legal framework.
According to Bitkom CEO, a lot has happened in recent years, such as the pan-European shared data room initiative called Gaia-X. However, the well-known obstacles to rapidly adopting data-driven innovations have by no means been overcome. The surveyed companies perceive data protection as one of their greatest obstacles.
Data protection as an obstacle
Data protection is correct and important. But neither Europe nor Germany have uniform rules of the game. There are around 200 pieces of legislation in Germany alone – and these vary from state to state. In a Bitkom study, two-thirds of companies said data protection is an obstacle to new business models. “In Europe, and also in Germany, we need, above all, uniform data protection with uniform interpretations,” says Rohleder. It should be taken into account that the prohibition of the use of data increasingly means that valuable offers cannot be developed and marketed in Germany.
Thanks to so-called data spaces such as Gaia-X, Europe is now developing new possibilities for using data that go far beyond previous digital platforms. In such virtual spaces, companies establish common rules and procedures for handling and exchanging data. This should enable, standardize and simplify decentralized access to data.
In its latest annual report, the Expert Committee on Research and Innovation has identified the development of such data rooms as the basis of the future competitive German economy. However, the Bitkom survey found that around a quarter of companies have never heard of these data rooms. Another quarter has heard of them, but doesn’t know what to do with them. At most 16 percent are in the photo, only 3 percent are active so far.