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YES! topic 2018

Promoting Digitisation in Business

by Jörg Ohnemus and Steffen Viete, researchers at ZEW Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim.

Selected by Dietrich-Bonhöffer-Gymnasium Metzingen and Saarpfalz Gymnasium Homburg I

Digitisation is a central aspect of an increasingly fast-paced technological change. Digital technologies are therefore forming the basis for new business models more frequently, and the digitalisation of production and work processes is continually gaining momentum. The successful use of digital technologies in many industries is now considered to be crucial to stay competitive in the future on an international level. Overall, the success of digital transformation in the economy is considered to be vital in securing growth and prosperity.

As an example, the digitalisation of production in Germany, also known as ‘Industry 4.0’, is seen as a great opportunity as the manufacturing industry continues to be important in Germany when compared with other industrial nations on an international level. However, digital technologies are already prominent even in the service sector and in agriculture, and it is important to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and accept the opportunities and challenges that come with further digitalisation (a keyword here is ‘platform economy’).

In the past few years, however, it has often been said that local economy cannot keep up with digital transformation. International market leaders in today’s digital economy mainly come from the USA (e.g. Amazon, Apple, Google, eBay, Twitter, Facebook) or China (e.g. Baidu, Alibaba). Many different reasons are being discussed as to why digital transformation is sometimes hesitant. Companies often face the problem of there being a low level of acceptance and use of digital technologies by employees. In this respect, the rapid pace of technology change also presents many companies with a massive challenge concerning the qualification and further development of their employees.

Furthermore, on a macroeconomic level, insufficient efforts being made by many sides to build digital infrastructure is creating a barrier for greater digitalisation. Many companies’ lack of awareness of the future importance of digital technologies for the competitiveness of their business models is also often discussed. Due to the networking effects, the success of digital platforms is mainly dependent on fast growth for the highest possible number of users. Here, the heavily fragmented European single market is considered to be a hindrance to the development of global market leaders concerning language, currency and regulations, in comparison to the USA or China.

What opportunities are there to involve employees more in their company’s digitalisation process? How can it be ensured that employees gain the necessary qualifications and abilities for a lifetime with regards to technologies that are developing at an increasingly faster pace? What ‘projects’ (investments, laws/regulations, etc.) should policy promote to support digitalisation in companies? How can we keep the number of digitalisation ‘losers’ (e.g. due to companies shutting down, but also on a personal level due to job losses) as low as possible? How will companies, management and employees have to change in the age of Industry 4.0? How will work organisations and employment relationships have to change as a result of digitalisation? What opportunities and risks are there for employees? What role will data play for the (future) business models of companies?

„Monitoring Report Digitale Wirtschaft“ des Bundeswirtschaftsministeriums (Graumann et al., 2017)

„Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard“ OECD (2017)

McKinsey Global Institute (https://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/overview)

Digital Europe: Pushing the Frontier, Capturing the Benefits

Das Digitale Wirtschaftswunder – Wunsch oder Wirklichkeit?

Forschungsbereich Digitale Ökonomie des ZEW (http://www.zew.de/de/forschung/digitale-oekonomie)

Zentrum für Industrieökonomik und neue Technologien des ifo Instituts (http://www.cesifo-group.de/de/ifoHome/research/Departments/Industrial-Organisation-and-New-Technologies.html)

MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (http://ide.mit.edu).

FAZ Diginomics: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/diginomics).

Graumann, Sabine, Irene Bertschek, Tobias Weber, Martin Ebert und Jörg Ohnemus (2017), Monitoring-Report Wirtschaft DIGITAL 2017 – Kompakt, Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie, Berlin.

OECD (2017), OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2017: The Digital Transformation, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Jörg Ohnemus

Jörg Ohnemus studied economics at the University of Mannheim and the University of Heidelberg, specialising in currency and monetary policy, development economics, and econometrics. Following his studies, he joined ZEW’s Research Department „Digital Economy“ in 2004.  The diffusion of information and communication technologies on firm and industry level in Germany as well as internationally is at the heart of his research.

Institution: ZEW – Centre for European Economic Research
YES! Participations: 2018


Steffen Viete

Steffen Viete studied international economics and economic policy at Goethe University Frankfurt. In his Master’s thesis he analysed the relationship between offshoring and the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICT) in German firms. In October 2013, he joined ZEW’s Research Department „Digital Economy“.

Institution: ZEW – Centre for European Economic Research
YES! Participations: 2018