Industry Issues

Supporting Germany’s Charter of Digital Networking

Elsevier was among the signatories of an IT policy paper designed to benefit German society; here’s how we can contribute

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Olaf Lodbrok, Managing Director of Elsevier Health Analytics EMEA LA (Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) signs the Charter of Digital Networking.In today’s digital world, a nation’s future increasingly depends on the effective use and integration of digital technologies. At the 2014 National IT Summit of the German government in Hamburg, German as well as international companies presented the Charta der digitalen Vernetzung (Charter of Digital Networking) to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The policy paper is intended to systematically develop and promote the potential of digital networking in Germany on the foundation of a common societal understanding. It is meant to serve as a basis for action for the secretariat for intelligent networking that will be initiated in the spring by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy to advance digital networking in education, energy, health, transportation and administration.

With technological innovations influencing our economic and societal daily routines, the future of Germany depends on how new technologies are used and integrated. The Charta aims to lay the foundation for further growth and progress in the digital society on the basis of 10 principles.

At Elsevier, technology has been a vital part of our business, enabling us to evolve from a publisher to an “information solutions provider.” We work closely with our customers to develop products tailored to their needs, helping them find the knowledge and information to pursue their research effectively and make informed decisions about which research to fund.

In this article, Jörg Limberg, Elsevier’s VP of Europe Research Sales, comments on the role of digital networking and the potential impact of the Charta for Germany from an IT perspective. Olaf Lodbrok, Managing Director of Elsevier Health Analytics for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America, explains the company’s reasons for signing the Charta and assesses the opportunities of digital networking from a health policy point of view.

Both authors indicate which of the Charta’s 10 principles is the most important from their perspective.  [divider]

The industry has taken a big step forward with the Charta

By Jörg Limberg

Jörg Limberg, VP of Europe Research Solutions Sales for ElsevierGermany is one of the most innovative countries in the world, and “made in Germany” is still a quality label. However, when it comes to implementing new technologies, Germans tend to be rather hesitant, even nowadays, when Germany faces large challenges like an aging population that requires new approaches and solutions.

Technology is the great opportunity of our time. It allows us to drive innovations that can improve the economic and societal well-being of the whole German population. This is what makes the Charta of Digital Networking so important.

For us, the Charta is a clear commitment to a development that started many years ago driven by new technologies – a development so strong that it justifies speaking about a digital revolution. At Elsevier, we have been part of this development from the beginning. We were one of the first cloud solution providers at that time, and the fact that much of our content is provided by IT-supported solutions has connected us with clients from early on.

Our content is actually something that differentiates us from IT firms. Innovative “information solutions” consist of content as well as technology. While IT companies offer clients the technology and the infrastructure to better administrate their content, we use technology to deliver information as part of our customers’ workflow. Sometimes we develop our own technology; other times, we partner with technology companies. In either case, researchers around the world can use our applications to spot emerging trends, find peers who are working on the same topics, connect with each other and share content.

Digital networking benefits society as a whole

Currently with mobile technologies, there are unparalleled possibilities to analyze and process content and draw conclusions. For the past two decades, Elsevier has been dealing with questions like: “How can data be best integrated?” “What does it take to process them in a way that adds value to the industry?” This knowledge can contribute to advancing other industries – buzzword: Industry 4.0. It’s one of the reasons we chose to engage in the framework of the Charta: We want to help the industry and society transform and adapt to new technology services as smoothly as possible and benefit as much as possible from digital networking.

Consequently, for me, the Charta’s most important principle is the fifth one: “We want to make the large amount of diverse data generated by digital networking usable for our society and the individual.” This principle underlines the benefits of digital networking very clearly and shows what all our actions are aimed at: Helping society as a whole and every single person benefit from the great opportunities technology brings.

Germany needs to keep innovating to stay competitive

While the world is getting smaller due to technological innovations, the pressure on us as a nation is increasing. To keep the “made in Germany” quality alive, we will have to open up to new ideas. This requires a certain adaptation in the emotional and societal environment that other countries have already overcome. In Estonia, for instance, there is free wireless at beaches and supermarkets; mobile payment is completely normal, and school curricula, grades and homework are located on a central online platform. If we want to continue to be able to compete with these countries, we need to start embracing the digital revolution.

We are already going in the right direction: Policymakers have taken first steps to overcome hurdles from the past. For example, in the higher education sector, the ban on cooperation was lifted enabling national licenses. In society, Generation Y, consisting of so-called “digital natives,” has entered the workforce and will quite naturally incorporate technology into working routines. I can see a huge added value provided by the Charta in this regard that can help drive this development. The industry has taken a large step forward with the Charta and we are determined to contribute to taking advantage of Germany’s full potential.

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In healthcare, the Charta can motivate policy that would strengthen digital networking

By Olaf Lodbrok

Olaf Lodbrok, Managing Director of Elsevier Health Analytics EMEA LA (Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America)With their signature, the companies supporting the Charta of Digital Networking highlight the importance of digital communications for the future of society in all areas. At Elsevier, we strongly believe in the opportunities of digital networking and want to help German society take advantage of the opportunities of technological innovation. Economically, digital networking can generate growth, cost savings and efficiency gains. This directly impacts people’s lives, digital networking has the ability to improve economic competitiveness, create more jobs and improve services and thus the overall quality of life.

In the realm of health, for instance, the use of healthcare data and health analytics can actually save lives, as experts from German statutory health insurers demonstrated at a recent Elsevier symposium in Berlin. With new digital technologies, patients with a high risk can be more easily identified and treated early enough to moderate the progression of their condition. Additionally, health analytics enables us to spend our limited resources in a more targeted and efficient manner. This means that patients will benefit from better treatment, physicians will receive support in implementing evidence-based practices, and the resources from health insurance funds can be spent more wisely.

Embrace digital technologies to bring society forward

While digital technologies are already offering us these chances and benefits, in practice the medical system is still determined by processes designed for paper. Even though all participants, physicians, hospitals and sickness funds are doing their best to overcome the current communication deficits, we have not yet seized the opportunities of digital inter-connectedness. This means that we as a society are missing out on opportunities.

Other countries are leading the way in this regard. Denmark, for instance, has introduced a shared health record. Physicians there can now see their colleagues’ prescriptions. This transparency among providers is dramatically transforming the Danish healthcare system, already one of the best in the world. Physicians now feel responsible for the full array of prescriptions, even those of their colleagues. Also patients can access and review their complete personal health record, which makes them a responsible partner in their health management. In consequence, the networking of all players increases patient outcome at large.

The German government has recognized the need for digital exchange of patient data between providers and the use of data to improve patient care. The draft bill on e-health legislation as well as the IT summit underline that policymakers have recognized the need for action in taking forward digital networking. Supported by larger players in the industry, the Charta can generate impetus for further regulation, especially because the Federal Economic Ministry has started an administrative office “Intelligent Networking” aimed at promoting digital networking in health, education, energy, transportation and administration.

Data protection as the Charta’s most important principle

So far, in Germany, the perceived risks of digital intelligence have taken center stage. While for instance the US is much more focused on services, in Germany still many people work in classical manufacturing and need to be convinced that a transformation towards digital networking entails huge opportunities, also for them personally. Here, I see a huge difference the Charta can make by increasing awareness. It contributes by presenting a balanced view of the benefits versus the perceived risks.

For me, the Charta’s most impactful principle is the importance of data protection. Our customers entrust us with their data, and we take this responsibility very seriously. At Elsevier, we’re convinced that a high data protection-standard and seizing the opportunities of digital networking can both be realized at the same time. Thus, our society should not miss out on the opportunities that digital networking entails. Digital networking needs to have a higher priority in Germany.

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Charter of Digital Networking (English translation)

The diversity of our modern society, globalization, demographic change and the ever new possibilities for innovative information and communication technologies significantly shape the economic and social life in Germany. The future of our country depends increasingly on how we use digital technologies and how we integrate them into the economy and society. Germany must now provide the basis for growth and progress in the future digital society.

It is not just about the use of the Internet, computer or smartphones, but about a growing number of networked devices that communicate digitally connected with other devices, machines or people – for example in houses, wind turbines, vehicles or street lamps. The digital networking of all life and work areas, the progressive automation and digitization in the basic sectors energy, health, transport, education and management must not happen accidentally, but must be deliberately driven and based on a shared social understanding.

Germany can only remain economically successful if we systematically develop the potential of digital networking.

The use and promotion of modern information and communication technologies open up opportunities for new, creative solutions, for growth, competitiveness and innovation. We need to exploit them consistently and in a timely manner, to maintain jobs and to create and to strengthen the competitiveness of the industrial location Germany. The necessary cultural acceptance requires a broad future dialogue on all social levels.

10 Principles of the Charter

The following principles are an expression of our mutual understanding on how to move towards a digital society:

  1. We understand the use and development of digital networking to be a decisive location factor for Germany.
  2. We are convinced that digital networking will evolve to become the basis of social prosperity and help improve the living conditions for people over the next decade.
  3. We seek an open dialogue across all industries and social groups to promote society’s technological progress. While doing so, we will carefully weigh social risks and opportunities.
  4. We are aware of the obligation to securely handle personal data and information and will act according to data protection rules. We will guarantee this through effective technical and organization measures, which prevent unauthorized access and misuse. We perceive a uniform European data protection law to be an important framework. Continued multilateral harmonization of legal frameworks should be addressed quickly.
  5. We seek to make large and diverse amounts of data, generated by digital networking, more usable so that opportunities and benefits for our society and each individual can be gained. In order to establish a suitable framework, business, politics, science and society must take joint responsibility.
  6. We deem the extensive availability to access modern broadband networks as a prerequisite for discrimination-free participation with regard to the benefits of digital networking. Education and media literacy, as well as targeted collaborative research efforts by governmental and non-governmental institutions are also vital to pave the way towards a digital networked society.
  7. We support the rapid development and use of open international standards and norms for interoperable, global solutions.
  8. We understand first and foremost that people and businesses are the driving forces behind digital change. In order for society to benefit from these forces, stable legal and investment-friendly framework conditions are required.
  9. We want to avoid a shortage of skilled workers and promote new skills. To do this, mandatory new multidisciplinary and cross-industry qualifications must be integrated into the planning, implementation and operation of digital networked applications. They must also be embedded into the educational system and vocational training programs.
  10. Digital networking shall serve as an index of social progress, freedom and prosperity. Together, we want to help make Germany future-proof.

Read the original Charta der digitalen Vernetzung

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Elsevier Connect Contributors

Jörg Limberg, VP of Europe Research Solutions Sales for Elsevier, is responsible for strongly anchoring Elsevier’s portfolio in science and technology in the European market. He has more than 20 years of experience in the software & IT industry. Prior to joining Elsevier in 2014, Jörg Limberg was VP & General Manager HP Software. He holds a diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Technische Universität München (TUM).

Olaf Lodbrok is Managing Director of Elsevier Health Analytics EMEA LA (Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) and signatory of the Charta. Previously, he was Managing Director of Elsevier Health Sciences in Germany. He has more than 20 years' experience in the German healthcare market, including 14 years in various management positions. Lodbrok holds a master's degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Aachen University (RWTH) and an MBA from Duke University. He lives and works in Munich and Berlin.

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