The digitisation of Germany’s cities and municipalities is making progress. At the same time, however, citizens’ expectations of their authorities and offices are also growing: almost 9 out of 10 Germans (88 percent) are now demanding that their city or municipal administration pursue the topic of digitalisation with more vigour. In 2020, it was still 78 percent and 69 percent in 2019. Digital processing is particularly in demand for common administrative services: 89 percent of Germans would like to apply for or renew their identity card online or would have liked to do so in the past. 69 percent say this about residence registrations and 65 percent would like to apply for a registration confirmation online instead of going to the office to do so. These are the results of a representative survey of 1,004 people in Germany aged 18 and over, which was presented today, Tuesday, on the occasion of the Smart Country Convention in Berlin. According to the survey, there are many other administrative matters that citizens want to take care of online: applying for a birth certificate (56 percent), applying for family benefits such as child benefit (54 percent) or registering a car (52 percent). “The cities and municipalities are continuing to drive digitalisation forward. The more digitally the offices and authorities act, the more citizen-friendly they are perceived to be – and the more they also help the local economy,” says Bitkom CEO Dr Bernhard Rohleder. “During the Corona pandemic, people experienced what is possible digitally and how easy and often playful many things are. Their expectations of digital services from administrations, cities and municipalities have risen – and rightly so. The public sector must now shift up more than one gear and massively accelerate its digital transformation. The Smart Country Convention shows how the digitalisation of administrations, cities and municipalities can be driven forward.”
The Smart Country Convention in Berlin will bring together more than 10,000 representatives from politics, business, cities and municipalities from 18 to 20 October. Their common goal is to accelerate the digitalisation of Germany and to implement it locally in a way that is citizen-friendly and close to the people. Martin Ecknig, CEO of Messe Berlin, says: “The Smart Country Convention is back as a presence event – with a visibly enlarged range of products in our halls, highly topical themes and a state and federal political participation like never before. In addition to the interest of our state government, five federal ministries are represented at SCCON for the first time. This shows us how great the desire is for exchange around topics such as e-government, smart city and smart region. But as important as digitalisation may be – for the public sector, but of course also for us in the trade fair industry – in order to make contacts and develop ideas together, you need to talk face to face. And the Smart Country Convention offers the ideal platform for this.”
As a Smart Country role model and partner country, Austria is this year’s guest at the Smart Country Convention. Florian Tursky, State Secretary for Digitisation and Telecommunications in Austria: “My principle is: to simplify administration through digitisation and e-government and to make the opportunities of digitisation available to everyone. The best technological innovation is worthless if it cannot be used by the population. To do this, you have to bring the administration to where the people are. That is why we will also offer almost all administrative procedures digitally by 2024. We are on the right path, but it is also clear that there is still a lot of room for improvement. A major milestone will be the digital driving licence. It is based on the eID and will be Austria’s first digital identity card.”
64 percent currently still rate their city as digitally backward
More than three quarters of Germans (77 percent) are convinced that digital administrative procedures save time. Many, however, are currently struggling with the services offered by their authorities and offices. 84 percent agree with the statement that the authorities in their area seem overburdened. And 86 percent say: “Authorities generally take too long to process my requests. 85 per cent say that it is difficult to get an appointment with an authority at short notice. Only one in three (33 percent) rate the level of digitalisation in their own city or municipality as advanced (10 percent very advanced, 23 percent rather advanced). However, 64 percent rate it as backward (37 percent rather backward, 27 percent completely backward). “Most people in Germany are fed up with paperwork, waiting times and cumbersome processes,” says Rohleder. “Digital pioneer cities and smart city initiatives in Germany are already showing how things can be done simply, quickly and digitally.” Especially with a view to the latest challenges, he said, it shows: “Whether it’s an energy shortage, a pandemic or a flood disaster: cities, municipalities and the entire state have come and will come through the current crises better if they are digitally well positioned.”
Majority sees OZG as a long-term project
According to the Online Access Act (OZG), all of the nearly 600 administrative services are supposed to be available digitally by the end of 2022. However, only about 80 individual services are currently available to citizens nationwide. Word seems to have got around about these delays. About a third (34 per cent) believe full implementation will not take place for 2 to 5 years, and a majority of 56 per cent believe it will take longer than 5 years for the OZG to be fully implemented. “Administrative services and processes must be digitised across the board and the implementation of the OZG must be accelerated, that is absolutely clear,” says Bitkom CEO Dr Bernhard Rohleder. “Other countries like Austria are making much more speed in this. Citizen services there have been online for a long time and are used by people as a matter of course. Digital administrative services are a key location factor and we need to develop this location factor more vigorously in Germany.”
Smart Country Convention shows digital solutions for the public sector
The digitisation of administrations, cities and municipalities is the central theme of the Smart Country Convention. Along the central themes of “Sovereignty. Sustainability. Resilience”, opportunities and possibilities of digitalisation in the public sector will be presented on four stages and at the Expo. The programme will open with a keynote speech by Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser. Other speakers include Federal Minister of Construction Klara Geywitz, Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir, Federal Minister of Digital and Transport Volker Wissing and Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey. Information on the programme, exhibitors and participation is available at www.smartcountry.berlin.
Methodological note: The data is based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. A total of 1,004 people aged 18 and over in Germany were interviewed by telephone. The survey is representative.