The Networked World: How Digitization Is Revolutionizing the Workplace

“Digitization is good!” – at least according to Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG. At the Talk in the Park event, he explains what the worlds of politics and economics have to do to prevent German companies from losing touch with the digital transformation.
Robert Bosch Stiftung | February 2016

The Internet of Things is changing our economy at breakneck speed. According to estimates, communication between machines will overtake communication between people in just a few short years on the World Wide Web. At the same time, digitization is increasing competitive pressures: companies that are unable to cope with the transformation are disappearing from the market.

“How are companies, politicians, and society supposed to react to the expected changes?” Timotheus Höttges posed this question during his speech at the Talk in the Park event. The talk held by the CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG formed the final piece of the three-part event dedicated to the digital revolution and its consequences. The speaker and the topic proved to be a true attraction: around 70 guests accepted the invitation to the Bosch House Heidehof.

Höttges left no doubt that digitization could threaten many job categories, because computers have long been able to execute thought processes and not just physical jobs. However, the Telekom CEO took an adamant stance against the current trend for skepticism of technology that is very prevalent in Germany: “Digitization is good!” While a number of job categories are disappearing, other new ones are being created – and the work of the future will be more fulfilling and humane.

Meanwhile, politics and economics will have to proactively guide the digital transformation. This includes, for example, companies making their working hours more flexible and adapting them to the needs of the digital knowledge worker. Social skills, creativity, and the ability to organize oneself should be rewarded more significantly in the future. The education system has to lay the foundation for these skills. Here, Höttges demands more focus on independent learning and on mathematic and natural science subjects, as well as knowledge of programming.

Politicians are tasked with fostering entrepreneurial spirit by eliminating unnecessary regulation. Likewise, Höttges argued for continued expansion of European integration: “A digital domestic market is a deciding factor in competition.” But the Telekom CEO was also plagued by the question of how to alleviate the fears of people faced with the digital future of the workplace. He suggested the creation of new social security systems and sees an unconditional basic income financed by taxing profits as a possibility – an exciting topic that drove discussion with the audience.