Green MP Misbah Khan sees serious negative consequences for Germany from slow digitalization. “The inadequate digitalization of our administration is slowly but surely becoming a serious disadvantage as a location,” said the domestic politician at the German Press Agency in Berlin.
The federal and state governments actually had five years to digitize their administrative services. The Online Access Act (OZG), which was passed by the Bundestag in August 2017, was intended to serve this purpose. It gave countries until the end of 2022 to digitize all 575 administrative services and offer them online. But the target was not even close to being reached.
Anyone who clicks through the so-called OZG dashboard, which is intended to give citizens an overview, will find that only 148 services are currently available digitally across the board in Germany.
Accusation of lack of transparency
In November, the chairman of the Regulatory Control Council, Lutz Goebel, accused the responsible Federal Ministry of the Interior of a lack of transparency. From the perspective of the Regulatory Control Council, the Online Access Act and its implementation have, so to speak, “disappeared into the basement”. The Regulatory Control Council is an independent expert committee that advises the Federal Government, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat on reducing bureaucracy and better regulation.
According to the OZG, it would count as a success if a government service is digitized in a federal state, for example. The idea is that other countries could then simply adopt the application. But the “one for all” principle has rarely worked properly. The Federal Audit Office complained in a report on the OZG that too little “reuse potential” had been developed.
When it comes to the new edition of the OZG, they want to rely more on so-called open source software. Program codes are openly visible and can be controlled and improved by users. Free license models are often associated with this. The most important open source project is the Linux operating system, which is also the basis for Google's Android operating system. This would allow authorities to adopt digital solutions from other authorities without the need for complex licensing procedures.
Khan: Reduce vendor dependencies
"If taxpayers' money is spent on software development, the source code should also be made available," says Khan. "Through open source we reduce manufacturer dependencies, strengthen digital sovereignty and enable better reuse and further development."
In addition, there is a shortage of IT specialists, which the digital association Bitkom is complaining about. “Too few skilled workers and too much regulation are slowing down digital Germany,” Bitkom President Ralf Wintergerst recently explained. “In addition to companies, this is increasingly affecting public administration, which absolutely needs more digital skills.”
With the new edition of the OZG - the OZG 2.0 - the federal government also wants to completely dispense with deadlines. The amendment focuses on converting administrative processes completely to digital processes. This is intended, for example, to prevent data from being recorded digitally via web forms but then only being printed out in the authorities and processed analogously as usual. The cabinet passed the reform in May, but the Bundestag has not yet passed it.
Green politician Khan describes digitalization as Sisyphean work and points to mistakes made by previous governments. “The most sensible thing would be to create a legal right to a digital state,” she says. “That would be a strong signal and a powerful driver for a push for digitalization.”
OZG dashboard report from the Federal Audit Office on the OZG Bitkom on the shortage of skilled workers