Is Germany Falling Behind in the Big Internet Race?

By David Knight |

Germans like their beer. That’s a statement of fact; anyone who has spent time in the country will vouch for that. Yet, in a clear sign of how much of an integral part of society the Internet has become, 77 percent of Germans say they would give up booze for a year in order to stay online.

The figure comes from a new study into the growth of Internet by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) entitled ‘The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity.’

According to the report, when asked what they would give up for 12 months instead of the Internet, 89 percent of Germans said they would abstain from fast food, 70 percent from coffee and 10 percent from showers.

And 16 percent were even willing to give up sex for the duration!

But there was also some bad news for Germany in the study, which looked at Internet use in the G-20 countries. Internet-related business makes up 4.1 percent of GDP on average in the G-20, but only 3 percent in Germany. That figure is set to grow to 4 percent in the coming years, but, according to David Dean from BCG: “However, we are seeing that other countries are growing faster.”

Although the Internet has overtaken industry sectors such as hotels and restaurants and mining in terms of German GDP percentage, it is still behind the likes of financial services, construction and logistics. It all adds up to concern that German is losing ground when it comes to digital business. According to the study, the sector will grow an average of 8 percent a year to €118 billion in 2016.

But this is in the context of dramatic growth in the worldwide Internet-related economy – according the study, it will increase to $4.2 trillion by 2016, almost doubling the 2010 value of around €2.3 billion.

This will be led by an upsurge in the number of people online to three billion, almost half the world’s population.

And not enough is being done in Germany to make the most of this exponential growth, according to Dorothee Belz, who leads the Internet working group within the economic council of the Christian Democrats (CDU), part of Germany’s ruling coalition. Belz, who is also an advisor to Microsoft, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that there is plenty of potential in Germany, but there is still a huge need for greater training. Creating the necessary talent should also be a key aim of companies, she said: “The Internet must be a top priority.”

The 45 percent of Germans who said they would give up exercise in order to stay online can breathe easy – it’s not a scenario which is likely to happen any time soon. But it would seem that Germany, for want of a better phrase, needs to pull its finger out in order to remain where it must, leading the charge towards a brighter digital future.