How has corona changed your mobility?
Like most people, I spent less time traveling. Political committee group and national committee group meetings were all organized as video conferences. Only gradually are we moving towards other solutions. So far, I have only traveled to Berlin every time I have been to a Cabinet meeting – by car instead of by train. This long journey back and forth, just by myself, is of course quite exhausting. I miss the train journeys because that’s time I usually have for myself. I can work through documents, read or listen to podcasts.
Will the new digital solutions also replace many trips following corona?
Many solutions are not that new – they are only finally being implemented. Many colleagues used to say: we don’t have the hardware, we don’t have the software. That has changed. Everyone has tried online meetings and noticed that it doesn’t hurt. I hope that we can achieve a healthier mix in the long term. In the past, 90 percent of my meetings were analog, 10 percent digital. Now it’s the other way around. If we settle at 50/50, a lot has been achieved.
The Digital Minister does not demand complete digitization?
No, on many occasions a physical presence is important. During long video conferences it is also difficult for me to constantly put on an intelligent face (laughs). All jokes aside, we realize that we don’t have to travel for every appointment. For a 15-minute welcoming speech, nobody has to sit in the car or on the train for five hours. You can also send a video message. I think we will see a movement towards using fewer resources. By this, I mean environmental resources – the keywords being CO2 and nitrogen oxide – but also human resources.
What do you think of a right to home office?
I wonder if you always have to legislate everything? A legal claim is a strong encroachment on entrepreneurial freedom and is not feasible in every company. I would prefer to offer companies the greatest possible freedom to survive the consequences of the pandemic. The home office model will be used more, even without regulations. My model is trust working hours and trust working places.
A prerequisite for many digital solutions is fast internet – and Germany is at best mediocre. What are the main problems?
My impression after two months of corona: We are coping better than I had expected. There was no indication of any overload situations. Many applications related to schoolwork operate with incredibly low bandwidths. Here in Franconia, in the flat countryside, a company has created over 1,000 additional home office workstations in just a few weeks. There were only four cases where the bandwidth was not sufficient. Nobody has complained in my public consultation hours either. This does not mean, of course, that everything is top class everywhere though.