Climate change, the corona pandemic, and the war of aggression on Ukraine with its consequences for food and energy supply are clear reminders: the challenges of our time mark a turning point, also in international cooperation. Digitization can help us better manage these global crises: Pandemics can be tracked and contained through digital epidemic management systems. Digital identities and electronic money transfers enable states to provide their populations with basic services – and also to respond quickly in emergencies. Artificial intelligence can help in the fight against climate change to recognize impending droughts or extreme weather in good time and prepare for them.
Our approach is also to shape digital transformation with our partner countries in a fair and sustainable way. In this way, both sides can leverage their potential and also catch up digitally.
Around five billion people worldwide use the Internet. However, more than one-third of the world’s population remains cut off from the social and economic advances that come with digitization – women and girls are particularly affected.
German development policy advocates an international digital policy that seeks to balance interests and is underpinned by European standards. In this way, we provide a genuine alternative to the offerings of autocracies. Our guiding principle is a social-ecological digital transformation that gives our partner countries sovereignty over the most important resource of the digital age: their data. Our offering does not lead to new dependencies but is intended to reduce existing dependencies on commercial software, for example. We, therefore, offer our partner countries solutions that benefit both sides – for example, with digital public goods.
The Network for Digital Transformation in Development Cooperation is an important step in this direction. It is the first result of the comprehensive dialog with internal, national, and international stakeholders. In this broad network between development policy, the digital economy, civil society, and academia, we will join forces in the future and together lay the foundation for a new form of digital development policy in the sign of the changing times.
I look forward to working with you and invite you to learn more about the contribution of development cooperation to the German government’s international digital policy and the actors involved.
Yours, Svenja Schulze
We are committed – to digital progress!
To shape digital transformation of development cooperation with the perspective topic of “digitalization,” the BMZ has established a new governance model with exchange formats for internal collaboration and consultation with partners, consisting of a strategic board and an operational steering committee. “Transformation forums” discuss requirements and suggestions in a consultative process with national and international stakeholders from politics, business, science, civil society, and implementing organizations. Through these bodies, the internal digital transformation and the integration of new digital standards and solutions into development cooperation measures are driven forward in equal measure.
Together with partners from the private sector, politics, science & civil society, problems are defined and solutions are developed.
The operational steering committee coordinates knowledge sharing and implementation within BMZ and with stakeholders.
The Board is responsible for the strategic roadmap and decides on the measures.
MinDir Dirk Meyer
Director-General Global Health; employment; transformation of the economy; digital technologies; food and nutrition security
Chief Information Officer (CIO)
Chief Digital Officer (CDO)
Dr. Iliya Nickelt
Chief Data Scientist (CDS)
MinDir‘in Dr. Ariane Hildebrandt
Director-General Policy issues; data and effectiveness
MinDir Dr. Marc Schattenmann
Ulrich van Bebber
Chief Data Scientist (CDS)
Director human resources; organisation; legal affairs
We are living in times of multiple crises and massive upheavals that are also changing the previous certainties of economic cooperation between the Global South and Germany. German development cooperation (DC) must reposition itself, and so must the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Like the printing press or the industrial revolution, digital transformation, along with climate change, is currently causing the greatest disruptive change in the way humanity lives together. A sustainable, socially and democratically designed digitalization is thus also the decisive lever for achieving faster progress in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Global challenges like these require global responses. In its coalition agreement, the new German government has therefore declared the shaping of the digital transformation and the development of an international digital policy to be core objectives of the legislative period.
To ensure success, Development Minister Svenja Schulze launched a comprehensive consultation process in June, at the end of which the BMZ will present itself as a pioneer of a newly understood digital development cooperation.
Focus 1: We will promote cultural change at the BMZ with our modernization agenda.
If you want to shape the digital transformation, you have to live the digital transformation. This applies to staff skills, internal processes, IT solutions and data management, as well as to FC and TC measures in the regional and sectoral departments.
That is why we are starting with our internal structures and moving forward as a transformation ministry: We want to promote agile project management, create experimental spaces and work in digital workflows. To this end, we rely on state-of-the-art technological solutions in the areas of network access, hardware and applications and network closely with the ICT industry. We support our employees with strategic change management and implement cultural and technological change at the ministry. For us, this is digital transformation at eye level.
Focus 2: We make data usable!
Data is the be-all and end-all: We are increasing data competence at the BMZ and expanding our database so that we can make data-based political decisions. We are also modernizing our data exchange with implementing organizations, grantees and partner organizations. In the future, we will prepare our data on BMZ projects in an easy-to-understand and clear manner via dashboards, both for internal use and for the parliamentary and general public. In this way, we can work with our partners and other implementing organizations to shape sustainable development cooperation based on facts and figures.
Focus 3: We shape a social-ecological-feminist digital policy!
Our value-based approach distinguishes German (and European) digital policy from the market-driven models in the US with their negative consequences (platform economy, monopolies, poor data protection, unfair working conditions in the gig economy) and the state-centric approaches in autocracies like China and Russia with their excesses (censorship, propaganda, cyberwar). Our world is changing – towards GreenIT, eAgriculture, eCommerce, FinTech, eMobility, eGovernment, Smart Energy, Smart Cities. To gain a foothold in these new sectors requires a shift in thinking. State systems, economic systems and cultural practices that cannot rely on modern technologies operate with outdated processes and are increasingly left behind in global competition. Therefore, TC or FC that is not digital by default is inconceivable in the BMZ in the future. Almost half of the people still have no access to the Internet and are thus massively disadvantaged in their development, most of them in the global South (with additional severe discrimination against women). The BMZ therefore wants to shape the digital transformation in economic and development cooperation with our partner countries in such a way that digital divides are overcome. At the same time, we want to face the risks of digitalization. We want to actively counter social divisions caused by technological advances, autocratic or monopolistic misuse of data, and environmental and climate damage caused by resource consumption and CO2 emissions.