D21 Digital Index

Demand for greater digitalization

How digitalized is Germany? The latest D21 Digital Index provides the answer. This broad social study, which CHG-MERIDIAN has supported as a partner for many years, takes a look at many digital talking points and trends. Roland Dathe, head of the study, assesses the various developments for us.

From remote working and home schooling to telemedicine, life is becoming increasingly digitalized, both at home and at work. This trend is confirmed by the latest D21 Digital Index, which has increased markedly (up 2 percent) in 2020. During the pandemic, Germans used digital services for longer and, above all, in an ever greater variety of ways. Streaming services, digital learning offerings, and voice assistants all saw strong growth. But while the digital possibilities are growing rapidly, not everyone can keep up with the pace of progress.

“There are various digital divides and groups that are having a particularly hard time participating in an increasingly digitalized world. These are mainly the older generation over the age of 70 and people with lower levels of education. Tailored offerings are needed to counter this divide.”

Roland Dathe, head of the D21 Digital Index study

D21 Roland Dathe
Roland Dathe, head of the D21 Digital Index study

Remote working

The COVID-19 pandemic has given many Germans the opportunity to work from home. What was previously the preserve of a relatively small group became, wherever possible, the new normal during the first lockdown. The number of people working remotely has now doubled, and for office workers the figure is almost 60 percent. More than 50 percent of respondents want to be able to work at least half of their hours remotely going forward. But only 25 percent of line managers support this.

D21 Study Homeoffice

“Managers are less likely to agree to more working from home because they see things from a different perspective and because of the consequences for managers. The changes wrought by COVID-19 have been highly disruptive for many companies and institutions. Managers are under pressure to ensure that all the technology and tools to enable collaboration run smoothly, and to adapt their managerial style to the new circumstances. If work is no longer tied to a specific location, then the future of Germany’s well-established office culture is open to question.”

Roland Dathe, head of the D21 Digital Index study

Expansion of e-health options

Digitalization in the healthcare sector is still very much a rarity in Germany, which languishes near the bottom of the rankings in a European comparison. Unlike Denmark or Estonia, for example, Germany has long lacked a legal framework and a broad range of services in this area. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, acceptance of telemedicine and similar services among the German population has increased by 8 percent according to the Digital Index.

“The task for the next few years will be to expand the services, raise their profile, and, above all, communicate transparently what data is used and who has access to it. Concerns about data security must be taken seriously, as health data is highly sensitive. Just over a third of respondents also expressed fears of being cut off from healthcare in some way as it moves online. It should also be noted that a third of respondents want to see greater digitalization in healthcare. I firmly believe that attitudes will change and acceptance increase as people experience these services themselves for the first time and perceive a genuine benefit.”

Roland Dathe, head of the D21 Digital Index study

Digital teaching and learning

Home schooling during lockdown highlighted just how far schools are lagging behind when it comes to digitalization. This is not primarily due to the teachers and schoolchildren; in fact, the large majority of them would like to see greater digitalization. They would also like to try out new ways of learning and digital work methods. But only 32 percent believe that schools can teach the necessary skills – a drop of 4 percent year-on-year.

“There hasn’t been a real strategy so far and there is a lack of skilled personnel, in particular. School administrators and the teachers responsible for IT classes are under pressure to develop media concepts for their schools and to decide which hardware and software is required. But how are they supposed to have the skills to do so? This requires IT specialists who, working with the schools, can set up the infrastructure and then, most importantly, provide professional support. There appears to be some progress in this area and I hope that the situation will improve significantly over the next few years, at least in terms of equipping schools with hardware and software. As with remote working, the right infrastructure is essential. But that is just the beginning; it takes a lot more to establish a fully functioning digital school. There has to be massive investment in the digital skills of teaching staff at the same time.”

Roland Dathe, head of the D21 Digital Index study


D21 Study Homeschooling

Working together to drive digitalization

Every year, the D21 Digital Index provides a comprehensive overview of digitalization in Germany. CHG-MERIDIAN has a long-standing partnership with the study’s publisher, Initiative D21. The common goal is to boost digitalization, spark the necessary debates, and shape the future of the digital society in a meaningful way.

D21 Digital Index

You can view all the figures and findings of the latest D21 Digital Index here.