The economy is in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution. Driven by the Internet, through a digital transformation process the real and virtual worlds are becoming increasingly intertwined and together form an Internet of Things. Digitisation represents an historic change for industry and the service economy. The collective term Industry 4.0 embraces solutions, processes and technologies and describes the extensive use of IT and a high degree of system networking in factories. Many German companies champion Industry 4.0, which in particular advances digitisation in the areas of production engineering and logistics. Overall, industry is expecting ever more intense international competition for leadership in technology. The Federal Government is promoting and actively shaping digital change, and has formulated in the new Coalition Agreement seven ambitious goals, first and foremost developing a “world-class” comprehensive digital infrastructure.
Germany, so the plan, will become the leading provider of Industry 4.0 and the number-one digital growth country in Europe. In positive scenarios, studies estimate additional economic growth potential from Industry 4.0 of between 200 and 425 billion euros by 2025. As a cross-cutting technology, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector plays a key role here. In 2017 it became the largest industrial employer. Over one million employees generate sales of 160 billion euros. The software industry was a particular engine here.
The development of the digital infrastructure is regarded as one of the key tasks in the digitisation drive. The goal: comprehensive development of gigabit networks. Fibre-optic connections are to be installed in every region, in every municipality, ideally up to every building by 2025. This requires telecommunications providers and the state to pull together. The Federal Government is earmarking up to 12 billion euros for this purpose in the current legislative period.
The upcoming 5G generation of mobile communications will play a key role on the path to digitisation. By 2020 some 770 million devices will be networked in Germany alone – alongside smartphones and tablets also vehicles, household appliances, and industrial machines. This poses a challenge above all for mobile connections. The Federal Government aims to make Germany the leading market for 5G. The technology is to be tested in five regions to accelerate development and ensure comprehensive, full coverage. The commercial launch is expected as of 2020.