November 28, 2017 / 1:08 PM / a year ago

Quarter of German firms see digital threat to survival

BERLIN (Reuters) - A quarter of German companies are worried that their survival is endangered by digitalization, while a large majority want the next German government to make the topic a priority, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The survey of 505 companies conducted by Bitkom, the German industry association for the information technology sector, also showed that only 20 percent are investing in developing digital business models.

“Digitalisation won’t wait for Germany. Companies and politicians both have a duty to get more active,” Bitkom president Achim Berg told reporters on the sidelines of a digital business conference in Berlin.

The survey showed that 85 percent of firms want the next government to make digitalization a top priority, in particular moving to put more government administration functions online and promote digital education and high speed internet.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is hoping she will be able form a new coalition government with the center-left Social Democrats after September elections, has promised to do more to promote the digitalization of German industry.

“In the exploratory talks, the word digitalization has been used a lot, but the big picture is missing,” Berg said. “What is the vision? Where is our place in the digital world?”

One German company that sees more opportunities than risks from digitalization is postal and logistics company Deutsche Post DHL, which is experimenting with robots to help deliver mail and drones in its warehouses.

Deutsche Post Chief Executive Frank Appel said that was why he is not worried about Amazon’s move to build up its own logistics capacities so it can handle more shipping itself.

“As long we have the best ideas, the best solutions, there is a right for existence,” Appel told the conference. “There is more than enough space for ourselves. The ecommerce move is at the beginning.”

Reporting by Emma Thomasson, editing by Ed Osmond

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