Our Digital Future

The Digital Revolution is permeating our daily lives on many levels and the velocity of change is likely to become even higher in the coming years. The undoubtedly great opportunities that this change brings is, however, matched by the political challenges it poses. In the emerging Digital Society, many regulatory frameworks are fast becoming outdated, new mechanisms to shape the transition are missing and new collective action problems arise as digitisation often goes along with the de-territorialisation.

The public policy community has only started to ponder the political implications of the digital transition. FES London and the wider FES Network in Germany and across the world are organizing a series of events and publication to discuss the key challenges of our Digital Future.


Germany’s Industry 4.0 strategy

Wolfgang Schroeder (November 2016): The debate about the digitalisation of production has been given fresh stimulus around the world. No other growth discourse has been so strongly pushed by state technology and research policies and at the same time so closely linked to the entrepreneurial and union players in Germany in recent years as the Industry 4.0 discourse. This paper discusses the conditions, potentials, players and prospects associated with the Industry 4.0 strate­gies. The aim is not merely to generate and use new technical options, but also to examine whether and how the German production model, which, contrary to the disruptive US model for instance, relies on incrementally evolutionary changes, can compete in light of the new challenges.

Please find the full report here

(In)equality in the Digital Society

London, 17th November 2016: The emerging Digital Society, fuelled by technological innovation, automation and digitisation, poses uniquely new opportunities but also challenges that affect both the organisation of welfare states and societies as such. It’s in this context the FES London and the wider FES Network in Germany and across the world are organizing a series of events and publications to discuss the key topics of our Digital Future. In partnership with the New Economics Foundation, the FES London organized a workshop in London to focus on two aspects of this debate, looking for policy solutions to make the digital transformation as inclusive as possible. Daniel Buhr, Professor for Policy Analysis, presented a comparative research on seven European welfare states exploring the effects of digitisation on innovation policy, the health sector and the labour markets in the respective countries drawing conclusions on how to shape these effects and possible future developments. These include, promoting society’s capacity to innovate, devising a policy for a social Europe and creating an active state that promotes education, skills and science. Stephen Devlin, Economist at NEF, and Annie Quick, Wellbeing and Inequality Lead at NEF, took the UK as an example of the welfare states examined above, exploring how technological developments can increase or decrease inequality and wellbeing in society - asking: how can we move towards a model of digitisation that promotes a fairer economy? Rather than focusing only on the paradigm of growth they suggested asking what the economy can do for us.

A digital transformation that can serve as a common good and works for everybody can only be achieved if there is common engagement and an active debate. FES London will continue to facilitate exchange between different stake-holders in this debate and maintain the coalition of already built networks.

Digitalisation and Low-Skilled Work

Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen (2016): In 2013 the low-skilled accounted for 23 percent of the German workforce. Low-skilled work, generally done by workers with few qualifications, is thus clearly an integral component of modern industrial production. In the current “Industry 4.0” discussions about mechanising, automating and digitalising the entire world of work, low-skilled work and repetitive tasks are treated as increasingly anachronistic relics from the early industrial era. It is suggested that within just a few years there will be no industrial jobs left for the unskilled and semi-skilled, leaving many workers facing social exclusion and loss of status. Please read more here

The Digital Society – Developments and Policy Changes

London, 21 January 2016: FES London organized the first workshop in a planned event series of in-depth discussions on the digital transformation. In Germany, both social democratic politicians and governmental departments are already engaged in a debate on concepts and appropriate policies how to shape this transformation. This first workshop intended to link the German debate with British politicians and experts in order to foster bilateral exchange on this subject.

The inputs and debates of the day focused on questions such as “Freedom and data sovereignty in the digital society” and “The politics of inequality in the second machine age”. The project “Work 4.0” of the German Labour Ministry outlined how the German government prepares for the digital transformation. You can find the main outcomes of the workshop here.


The Digital Society – Impulses for the Digitalisation Congress

Eva Ellereit, Dr. Christian Krell, Dr. Tobias Mörschel (Edt. 2015): In November 2015, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung organised a broad congress on ‚Digital Society‘. This paper is the output of the congress, it features 24 stimulating articles written by politicians, academia, journalists and business stakeholders on the topic of digitization. The authors agree that digitization is currently in the hands of a few and bound to private commercial interests and decisions. This must change: We need a democratic outlook which will eventually foster social progress, they argue.

Please find the full publication here.


Social Democratic Values in the Digital Society

Thymian Bussemer, Christian Krell, Henning Meyer (January 2016): The Digital Revolution is reshaping our societies and the pace of change is set to accelerate even further. The world of work in particular is increasingly transformed by new technologies and continuous innovation. This exemplifies a crucial point: The Digital Revolution is not primarily a technological but an economic and social issue. The central question then is: How should a Digital Society based on social democratic values look like? This paper, published jointly with Social Europe Journal, analyses the key conflicts and provides policy guidance for decision-makers.

Please find the paper here.


Industry 4.0 – New Tasks for Innovation Policy

Daniel Buhr (April 2015): Industry 4.0 – a digitised and networked production – is still a vision, but global competition for the best ideas and most successful concepts is already steaming ahead. In order to understand Industry 4.0, Daniel Buhr outlines the vision behind the concept, the impact on society and the tasks for a successful innovation policy. Buhr argues that society will play a major role in the innovation process as driver of technical and social innovations. Systemic innovation policy is needed which includes firms, unions, civil society and academia, besides mere policy-makers. Only a holistic approach to Industry 4.0 allows technical innovation to contribute to social progress.

Please find the full publication here.


Social Innovation Policy for Industry 4.0

Daniel Buhr (2015): Industry 4.0 is more than just technical innovation – it’s also social innovation. Hence, we need to analyse closely the opportunities and challenges the world will face. This will allow us to make recommendations for policy-makers and to suggest possible ways to support the shift towards Industry 4.0. This study by Daniel Buhr contributes to this discussion and identifies ten points analysing what the outlined opportunities and challenges mean for innovation policy.

Please find the full publication here.


The Technological Revolution - What is Progressive Economy?

Progressive Economy Initiative supported by the S&D Group (January 2016): The ‘Journal for a Progressive Economy’ aims to foster an informed and sincere public debate on the economic, social and environmental policy of a progressive economy. The 7th issue ‘Technological Revolution’ features a variety of articles on three different topics: the creation of the right conditions for a new world of work, the possibility of an equal digital revolution and innovation in the digital single market.

Please find the full publication here.