Digital channels present both an opportunity and a challenge for democracy. Never has it been so easy for politicians to find out the mood of the people. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and digital media offer feedback in real time. And it's not always positive! But what are the advantages of the new digital opportunities and how can they be exploited for the benefit of democracy? This is what politicians are saying about how digitization relates to democracy:
"I can only hope that German businesses, of whatever size, rapidly make use of the opportunities offered by the Internet, also in customer relations, to ensure that they remain state of the art and do not fall behind."
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, CDU
"In the future, digitization will have a major impact on the way we in Germany live, work, and manufacture."
Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the SPD and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy
"We need to act much faster. The [digital] revolution is happening much more quickly than many in politics and business would like to admit. Germany and Europe need to make digitization a top priority."
Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, CDU
"We don't want a democracy that conforms with digitization, we want to shape the change politically."
Thomas Oppermann, chairman of the SPD parliamentary group
"In matters of data privacy protection, of IT security, of trust, everyone has a part to play: society, the political sphere and the business world. But if we do not exercise caution, then even the best laws and the best technology cannot help us."
Thomas de Maizière, CDU, German Federal Minister of the Interior
"In Germany, we have to talk about a data policy that facilitates business models. In terms of business, I would say that the major challenge lies in bringing together stakeholders from the start-up field, from SMEs, and from industry, specifically those that are particularly strong in Germany, and making sure that in 20 or 30 years there is still a good SME sector and good industry, but that these are based on innovative business models. This is a major task for the political sphere."
Lars Klingbeil, Network Policy Spokesman for the SPD
"Digital skills have to be an integral part of our educational principles, from school level through vocational training and at universities – that means lifelong digital learning."
Thomas Jarzombek, Network Policy Spokesman for the CDU
"Digitization makes every individual's life easier. If we stop and think about the opportunities that we have today to access the collective knowledge of humanity, or what aids are available to us in our cars to ensure safe, traffic-jam-free driving, it is easy to understand just how important it is."
Jens Koeppen, CDU, Chairman of the Committee on the Digital Agenda
"The losers in an increasingly digitized and networked world will be data privacy protection and personal rights, if there is no regulation at European or international level to ensure that these are protected and enforced. "
Gerold Reichenbach, SPD, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on the Digital Agenda
"Offers need to be made so that the Internet can be used for democracy."
Martin Delius, former chairman of the Pirate Party in the Berlin House of Representatives, the LEFT
Martin Schulz has warned about "totalitarian tendencies" due to advancing digitization, saying it is now about "defending our basic values in the 21st century."
We must ensure through astute economic policy "that we in Europe keep pace with technological developments, so that we can be freed from dependency on and control by the current digital superpowers, be they nation states or global corporations."
Martin Schulz, European Parliament President; Member of the SPD Executive Committee and member of the SPD presidium
"The Internet manages to create a level of transparency that is a thorn in the side for authoritarian regimes. This carries with it an opportunity for democracy. [...] In Europe, we view with concern antipolitical powers that are also using these new opportunities to torpedo our democratic system. [...] An Internet-based democracy also needs independent media with high-quality reporting, it needs the dedication and passion of many individuals."
Michael Kellner, Political Director and Malte Spitz, Member of the State Executive Board of the Alliance 90/DIE GRÜNEN
"Many people fear the prospect of the digital revolution. The sharing of data requires trust that the data is secure and that the privacy of users will be protected. This trust is currently being eroded – and with it trust in the Internet as a medium."
Frank Walter Steinmeier, Federal Foreign Minister, SPD
"In the past, I had to go through journalists if I wanted to communicate with citizens. These days, I can talk to them directly via social networks. In this way I even reach people who aren't otherwise interested in politics."
Peter Tauber, member of the Bundestag and Secretary General, CDU
"In my view, the past has shown that politicians can now certainly be influenced in their political positions if they receive a large amount of feedback on a specific issue. What used to be the e-mail is now the Tweet."
Konstantin von Notz, deputy head of The Greens parliamentary party
"Digitization is doing something to democracy." But you can also find "lots of positive examples," for example in education or participation in governmental and social development. What's important is "that we talk about it."
Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, SPD
"We are in a position to turn our industrial nation into a digital nation. But to do so, the German economy needs to take on the competition especially with the United States and China."
Alexander Dobrindt, Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure, CSU
"Digitization is as crucial to our industry as the steam engine and electricity."
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
"[Digitization] is a genuine revolution! All aspects of our lives are changing: consumption, food, mobility, absolutely everything."
Francois Hollande, President of France
"A European digital single market has the potential to bring down the high levels of unemployment in the EU, which is an attack on democracy”, stated Neelie Kroes.
Neelie Kroes, former EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda
"If we want an open Internet, we need to take people's concerns seriously, otherwise they will withdraw."
Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Competition
"Tangible change is in the air. Young people are already transforming many aspects of daily life from the way we learn and communicate to the way we do business. They are also ready to change the way democracies work.”
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
"Digitization and deregulation are the best tools in my toolbox"
Juha Sipilä, President of Finland
"Nonetheless, we are e-believers. We are proud of being pioneers in e-government. And we are convinced that a public sector ICT approach that is citizen-centered, secure and transparent is the future of good governance in the 21st century."
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia
"Bringing communities closer together, it [the Internet] has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known."
Barack Obama, President of the United States
"The significance and impact of the Internet is constantly growing. In this regard, the Internet must be used as a driver for development and modernization of the country."
Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation
"Freedom is what order is meant for, and order is the guarantee of freedom. We should respect internet users’ rights to exchange ideas and express their mindset we should also build good order in cyberspace in accordance with [the] law as it will help protect the legitimate rights and interests of all Internet users.”
Xi Jinping, President of China
"I dream of a digital India where access to information knows no barrier."
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
"My government will work for the digitization of government records. Digitization of government records will be done for improving accessibility. E-governance brings empowerment, equity and efficiency. […] Emerging technologies like Social Media will be used as a tool for participative governance, directly engaging the people in policy making and administration. […] We will strive to provide Wi-Fi zones in critical public areas in the next five years. My government will roll out broadband highway to reach every village and make all schools e-enabled in a phased manner."
Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, President of India