Network cable on the subject of digital politics


On 5 October 2017, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy hosted its 5th convention on “a regulatory environment for the digital economy”. The event brought together members of the German Bundestag, the Presidents of the Bundeskartellamt (Germany’s Competition Authority) and the Bundesnetzagentur (Germany’s Network Agency) with representatives of the business and science communities for discussions about the digitisation agenda for the incoming German government and about the institutional set-up in Germany.

Mr Matthias Machnig, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, spoke out in favour of creating a new digital agency. “The digital agency could act as a think tank and close the gap between digitisation policy, business and society at large. In addition to reporting on digital structures, the tasks for the agency ought to include facilitating digitisation in SMEs and at regional and municipal level, promoting gigabit infrastructure, monitoring the digital markets to prevent any unlawful behaviour, and keeping businesses and consumers up to date on digital developments.”

The first digital convention in Germany was held in 2015. Previous rounds have focused on “data markets”, “telecommunications regulation”, and “digital platforms”.
The convention provides for a forum for scientific debate on the need of developing a digital regulatory policy, and potential ways of doing so. A digital regulatory policy ought to take account of the profound impact of digitisation on the overall economy and follow a coherent design for the various sectors. In its White Paper on Digital Platforms, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy had put forward the proposal of establishing a digital agency. This new agency should not only help with enforcement issues in the digital world, but also bridge the knowledge and know-how gap that currently exists.

A consortium formed by the University of Mannheim (Mannheim Centre for Competition and Innovation) and the Free University of Berlin, together with the University of Passau and the Centre of European Economic Research, has been tasked by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy with organising the digital conventions.