The pandemic has advanced mobile work, but that is not enough for international competition with tech giants such as China or the US, says Microsoft’s head of Germany Sabine Bendiek
Berlin. Germany and digitalisation – that did not seem to fit together before the crisis. The World Economic Forum (WEF) complained in its global competition report last October, for example, that the fibre-optic network and mobile broadband connections are too underdeveloped or too slow. And an international comparative study by the US company Cisco recently showed that digitalization is progressing in Germany, but at a slower pace than in other countries. In international comparison, Germany slipped from sixth to 14th place. But the corona pandemic has created a new spirit of departure in many places. Mobile work suddenly works where it previously seemed unthinkable. Many companies invested in new technology for their employees at the beginning of the restrictions. So is Corona the starting signal for Germany’s digital catch-up to the tech giants from the US and China? This will not be a self-starter, warns the head of Microsoft Germany, Sabine Bendiek. “Homeoffice alone is not making a digital transformation,” the 54-year-old told our editorial board. The extent to which digitalisation is sometimes lacking has become clear in some schools during the pandemic restrictions. “The five billion euros from the Digital Pact School have hardly been called up so far, digital teaching concepts and platforms are missing. And that’s another reason why we are experiencing an involuntary digital crash course for students and teachers – with a lot of digital wild growth,” Bendiek criticized. For example, students and teachers have used “often reflexive” applications they already know from their smartphones. “But unfortunately, some free favorite apps have a price: their users’ data and their security,” Bendiek warned. In the case of digital education and qualification, the number of strikes in Germany must be significantly increased, demanded the head of Microsoft Germany. This is also important in terms of a key digital topic: artificial intelligence (AI). “We have to face reality: the technological revolution through artificial intelligence is coming and will turn the world of work around,” says Bendiek.
Companies are still reluctant to use AI But the German economy is currently struggling with the topic of AI, as a representative study by the digital industry association Bitkom shows on the basis of a survey of 603 companies with at least 20 employees. Only six percent already use artificial intelligence in everyday business. For 71 percent, however, it is not an issue, especially medium-sized companies often do not deal with it. Three quarters of respondents consider AI to be the most important technology of the future. “We do not have a problem of knowledge in artificial intelligence, but a massive implementation problem,” said Bitkom President Achim Berg at the study presentation.
Especially since the unwillingness to invest apparently has a banal reason. Seventy percent said they didn’t have time to deal with the issue. “It’s like a car race, where you don’t want to refuel because you’re racing,” Berg said. With artificial intelligence, German companies are not only connecting opportunities. Seventeen percent of entrepreneurs see AI as endangering the existence of their business. Eighty-one percent believe that tech companies such as Amazon and Google will use their leading position to attack German nuclear industries such as the automotive industry. And Microsoft CEO Sabine Bendiek also believes that the “next round in the digitalization race” is heralded in the key sectors: “Germany starts from pole position with a lot of expertise and a good machine and fleet, but has to prepare for some technical pit stops in order to stay up to date digitally and not fall behind.” It is precisely for this reason that the gap between Ai-pioneers and stragglers must be closed. “Some people talk about revolution, others don’t even know if there are Ai initiatives in their company,” sabine Bendiek said. And then there is another interest group: the workers. In a study from the previous year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that almost one in five jobs in this country were threatened by automation. For Bendiek, the technological revolution involves “losing jobs.” “But this also includes the creation of new fields of responsibility and professions,” says the head of Microsoft Germany.