ICD Reader Book Review


Nadine Schön and Thomas Heilmann

Anna Juhos, External Fellow, Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The current crisis has made it obvious that in our interdependent world new tools are required to tackle the challenges faced by society and government. But how can we capitalize on the opportunities to adapt to the new realities and deal with international rivalry, pandemics, societal changes and digitalization? In their new book, Neustaat, Nadine Schön and Thomas Heilmann, Members of the German Parliament’s Committee on the Digital Agenda make a compelling case for the transformation of policy, society and state in this new, increasingly digitalized era. Schön and Heilmann highlight that a governance system which is not capable to adapt efficiently to a constantly changing environment, loses out on the power and trust vested in it by the citizens. The authors do not shy away from criticizing the current bureaucratic and policy obstacles to effectiveness, flexible adaptation and innovation; quite the contrary, they see an opportunity for reform. Working together with 63 experts and parliamentary representatives, they provide 103 specific recommendations for the way forward.

In Neustaat, which could serve as the CDU’s new digitalization strategy, Schön and Heilmann argue that at the center of reform stands a constantly learning and adapting administration and state („ein lernender Staat”), in which decisions are more dominantly based on reliable data and information. States’ executive branches need to rely more on cooperative and simultaneous digital tools and processes instead of today’s widespread confrontative and sequential standards. Same shall apply to legislation and the drafting of bills. In order to make the administration fit for the upcoming global challenges, the authors claim that a new Transformation Ministerium could take the lead and govern the processes of state-wide modernization and digitalization. The politicians’ key message to the public is: “We need to adapt and change, and we are starting with ourselves.”

By analyzing questions related to privacy, blockchain, data protection, climate and infrastructure among others, Neustaat provides a comprehensive overview of the next steps required in the specific areas of the digital realm without losing sight of the bigger picture at the intersection of governance, economics and society, thus rule of law, long-term economic planning, and societal impacts. The result is not only a very enjoyable reading, but a scientifically detailed one, backed up by reliable data and statistics. Seconding the authors’ hopes that their policy proposals would incentivize other entrepreneurs and policy-makers as well, I wholeheartedly recommend Neustaat not just for other European leaders, but anyone who wishes to contribute to a global, ethical digital trendsetting and constructive discussion.

Neustaat is available in German


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