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Are we fit for the future in Germany?

Will Germany succeed in taking the major leap towards digitalisation? - Guest article from Wilfried Bauer, Head of the Public & Health Business Area at the Telekom subsidiary T-Systems
Wilfried Bauer
Wilfried Bauer
Head of the Public & Health Business Area at the Telekom subsidiary T-Systems
Wilfried Bauer

Industry is already leading the way in many sectors and naturally, a lot is happening on all levels at the moment - not least driven by the Corona pandemic. But what kind of leap will administration, healthcare and education still have to take here? And what will each of us - as citizens, patients, pupils or teachers - gain from the digitalisation initiatives? Wilfried Bauer, Head of the Public & Health Business Area at the Telekom subsidiary T-Systems, is convinced: "We no longer have time for trial and error. It is now a matter of making all public sectors fit for our digital today and tomorrow with quick and clever solutions.

After three years, even a calamity may be of some use, as a Far Eastern adage goes. And probably the same will be said of the ongoing pandemic crisis that is currently impacting the world, our lives and our economy to such a great extent. After all, it is now becoming patently clear to everyone: Digitalisation is the only way forward. Because virtually daily the current situation is staring us in the face, confronting us with the fact that we in Germany are often still far too slow, far too cumbersome.

Digititalisation of schools? Networking of the health authorities? A consistently designed vaccination management system? Even after months of crisis, this has still not been achieved in many cases.

The current situation shows how important digital processes are for both companies and public administration. This starts with the digital workplace and continues with all business processes. Those who had already digititalised their processes, at least partially, were able to continue working - also during far-reaching contact restrictions. Whether e-commerce, digital doctor's appointments, administrative or banking transactions, video chats with customers or internal processes: digital processes are always available, faster and save time and costs.

"Those who had already digititalised their processes, at least partially, were able to continue working – also during far-reaching contact restrictions."

Wilfried Bauer, VP Business Area Public & Health bei T-Systems
Fit for the future

Public-private partnerships - a question of trust

As the development of the Corona warning app has shown: a lot can be done and it can be done in a short period of time if there is an urgent need. Even in public-private partnerships. In just 50 days, Deutsche Telekom, together with its long-standing partner SAP, set up the warning app on behalf of the German government. With currently 25 million users, it is by far the most widely used app of its kind worldwide and is undergoing continuous further development. Right from the very outset, we decided to put the issues of voluntary use and data protection at the forefront - and the great acceptance of this concept proves the validity of these considerations to this day.

T-Systems and Deutsche Telekom serve almost all government agencies in Germany and many in Europe, as well as various regional state authorities, administrations and other public institutions. Here, too, the focus is on trustworthy handling of highly sensitive citizen data. We need a sovereign cloud infrastructure for Germany that enables even more convenient and, above all, secure online services for citizens. For example, the "Dialogised Housing Allowance Procedure", which offers a completely software-based solution for the processing and payment of housing allowances for both federal states and municipalities.

Or take the area of broadband and 5G expansion: here, the digitalisation of the so-called securing of routes, which is used to manage 1.5 million permit applications for cable and line laying, can ensure a significant acceleration of the processes. So that Germany can finally move up from one of the lower ranks in the EU Digitisation Atlas to one of the top places.

More important than ever: participation in digital education

The fact that Germany is lagging behind becomes apparent at the latest when schools have to shut down due to high infection rates. In these scenarios, almost 11 million pupils and their parents are faced with the challenge of "home schooling". Neither the equipment at home nor the equipment and facilities in schools are even remotely prepared for this - it comes as no surprise that, according to an OECD study, Germany is only ranking at 13th place internationally in terms of digital education. And not just since the Corona pandemic.

Teachers are not only complaining about the lack of equipment, however, but also about the lack of professional support for maintenance and operation of the IT tools and equipment. The market is fragmented and full of providers for various isolated solutions. What is called for here, however, is a player that can offer a comprehensive, holistic range of services, from networking and secure platforms through to service and operation - a complete ecosystem for digital education, so to speak. This is where Telekom bundles all of the group's resources in order to live up to its social claim of being "#there" (“#dabei”), namely to take everyone along with them on the course to digital society.

Modern, digital education is a central building block for the future capabilities and viability of our country. Children must be introduced to digitalisation and its possibilities as early and as quickly as possible. Blackboards and chalk are simply no longer in line with the times. What is needed here is a genuine "mind shift", also among teachers and school authorities, who perceived digital teaching not as an additional expense but as genuine added value for modern teaching and learning – also after the pandemic.

Getting closer to patients

The accusation that digitalisation will alienate people from each other over the long term is a recurring one. In the health sector in particular, it is clear that precisely the opposite is the case. So-called home care solutions, telemedicine or digital health tools that monitor diabetes, heart functions or other vital signs and transmit them in real time bring patients and doctors closer together - independent of time and place.

However, it is far more than just doctor-patient relationships. Digitalisation simplifies and streamlines all processes in an increasingly complex healthcare system, in which the most diverse protagonists and systems must grow together and interact ever more closely. The essential building blocks for the digital transformation of healthcare are as follows: secure networks, data protection-compliant use of information, digital applications and cross-sector connectivity. According to a Gartner study from last year, the CIOs of large hospitals and other healthcare institutions are consequently planning to invest massively in data analysis, IT security, user experience and process automation.

Unfortunately, Germany is currently playing at the bottom of the league in this area as well. Spain, Denmark and above all Israel are miles ahead of us. This is also currently evident in vaccination management. Together with SAP, Telekom has just developed a completely digital vaccination process chain: From the scheduling of appointments, to the comparison with the registration register, to the control of mobile vaccination teams, to the distribution of the vaccine in stock to the respective vaccination centres. This solutions shows on a daily basis who is in the age group entitled to vaccination, how much vaccine is available where, and how individual appointments can be made accordingly.

In 2021, more than nine out of ten companies are aiming to change their long-term IT strategy, and this also applies to the three areas discussed – in view of the current situation. Regardless of what the front end looks like, without the shift to a secure cloud infrastructure (keyword Gaia x) and away from proprietary solutions, large-scale digitalisation will not work. So the shift to the cloud will be driven forward with even stronger dynamics greater and more money will flow into automation and the real-time analysis of data (Big Data). These are investments that are decidedly worthwhile - delivering significant cost savings thanks reduced administrative input and efforts on the provider side and more and simpler services for users, in other words, for all of us.

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