The majority of the German population has a positive attitude towards changes brought about by digitisation. This is shown by the current Digital Index of the D21 Initiative. The annual study provides a profound picture of the situation of the digital society in Germany and shows how the population uses and adapts new technologies and digital tools in its professional and private everyday life.

“It is very gratifying that the majority of people in our country perceive the effects of digitization rather positively and look optimistically into the future” – Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier


progress despite standstill

Even though the statement may seem contradictory at first glance, it describes the level of digitisation in Germany very well. After initially slow momentum, the degree of digitisation has been increasing noticeably since 2017. Digital literacy, openness to technological change and usage behaviour are also improving, but despite all this the digital divide is still clearly noticeable.

According to the results of the D21 Digital Index, 86 percent of the German population is online, an increase of two percentage points. Mobile use via smartphones and tablets is particularly evident as a driver in all age groups.

But the degree of digitization is very dependent on the standard of education, according to the D21 Initiative:

“Age, educational level and occupation still have a clear influence: even if parts of the older generations are catching up, the younger generations are still more digital affinitive. In general, people in employment, especially those with a desk job, have a higher index value than people without a job (46 vs. 73). Higher educated people, with an index value of 71, have a significantly higher level of digitisation than people with low formal education (40).”

What is encouraging is the shift in the clusters, which are willing to use new technologies and digital tools. The group of “digitally offside” is shrinking, just like the formerly largest group, the “digitally compliant”. The group of “digital pioneers” is the largest this year, at 44 percent. This means that around 28 million people are dealing openly and confidently with the demands and achievements of digitisation.

Digitization of the professional world

This shift can also be explained by a structural change in everyday working life. The current D21 Digital Index captures for the first time the digital change in various areas of the respondents’ lives. In particular, everyday working life was ahead in terms of digital transformation. The 20,322 interviewees saw particularly new professional opportunities through digitalization. Almost as many, however, feel that they are under pressure from digital change. 43 percent of the participants stated that digitization has noticeably changed their work processes. For people with an office job, the figure is as high as 58 percent. Nevertheless, almost three quarters of the working population feel that they can cope with the current digital requirements.


Fundamental changes are expected

If the respondents have their way, there is hardly an area in the future that will not be changed by digitisation. Yet, as often conveyed in the media, there is no fundamental fear of this transformation. Many of the respondents assess this change largely positively and hope for significant added value, particularly in the areas of education and health.

“Where people see opportunities for participation and their own influence, they also often perceive the influence of digitization more positively. However, we also see that education has a decisive influence on how well people meet the demands of digital change. In particular, citizens with a low level of formal education are much more critical of the impact of digitisation on challenges such as job loss or loss of activities, and more often feel overwhelmed. Politics, business, civil society and science should use the results and translate them into forward-looking and far-sighted decisions in order to prepare people for comprehensive structural change. Contemporary education is essential – not only in schools, but low-threshold education at every stage of life” – Hannes Schwaderer, President of Initiative D21

In conclusion, it can be said that the foundations are in place for Germany to catch up globally in terms of digitisation. But a lot still needs to be done to achieve this. A great deal of impetus must be given to new technologies and digital opportunities in all sections of the population so that a rational understanding of the next five to ten years can find its way into companies.

This information transfer and the perception of the opportunities offered by digitization is the reason why I have created the Innovation Impulses, with which I want to enable employees and companies to distinguish between really profound trends and short fads.

The complete press release of the D21 initiative can be found here. Further information on the study can be found here.


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