False incentives, fraud, debt: the side effects of the corona crisis

The Chancellor is in top form in times of corona crisis. Angela Merkel explains complicated population doubling rates and reproductive numbers. But she also knows everyday things. “They have to be washed or ironed regularly, put in the oven or in the microwave,” Merkel explains how to care for respiratory masks. “Even if that sounds a bit housewife, so to speak.”

The omniscient state – embodied in the chancellor. The subjects are explained life down to the smallest detail. With this self-image, Merkel takes “measures that have never existed in our country before”. Fundamental rights are restricted, the economy is pushed to the brink and then supported with unprecedented aid.

One of Merkel’s closest confidants, Peter Altmaier, is more than enthusiastic. “An uncle who brings something is better than an aunt who plays the piano”, the Federal Minister of Economics remembers of his childhood.

And what is brought along! If you add up everything the federal government now wants to offer to combat the corona crisis, you get a gigantic sum of at least 1.2 trillion euros. No other country in the world has raised so much money in relation to its economic strength.

Germany has a full 35 percent, far more than the EU average or the USA. Federal finance minister Olaf Scholz did not understate what he promised a few weeks ago: “It is not spilled, but padding.”

graphic

The increase in importance and power is unique. Never in the history of the Federal Republic has a government intervened so quickly and deeply in public life and thus in the economy. After the financial crisis, German government debt rose by 315 billion euros in one year. The value of the federal, state and local governments will be far exceeded in this crisis. “I am worried whether we will be able to return to normal economic policy,” says Lars Feld, Germany’s top economy.

The measures to protect health are understandable. But the question increasingly arises: what side effects do the multi-billion dollar rescue programs have? The free market is disturbed, competition is distorted, prices lose their signal strength.

“As much market as possible, as much state as necessary”, the famous words of former Federal Minister of Economics Karl Schiller lose their meaning every day.

There is a risk of higher prices, inefficient companies and loss of wealth. It is significant that more and more companies are turning to the Bundeskartellamt during the corona crisis in order to be exempted from cooperating with competitors. The new spirit of state economy speaks.

Spend as much as you can. The year 2020 will be disastrous. Kristalina Georgiewa (IMF chief)

Certainly, help for companies with no fault of their own must be provided. But with the flood of support funds, the risk of misallocation is high. Capital and labor are tied up in companies with below-average productivity, less investment and innovative strength.

A few weeks ago, after a parliamentary request from the FDP for possible support from zombie companies, the Federal Ministry of Finance had to admit that “necessary market processes of creative destruction are hindered”.

The concern is justified that the state is eating itself too deeply into the economy, throwing privacy and data protection partially overboard and that the influence on the market will not be reversed after the end of the crisis.

A look at history suggests little good. The federal government is still 25 years after the IPO Deutsche Telekom still the largest single shareholder.

Fundamentally, there is a problem that is known in the economy as moral hazard: companies and citizens behave irresponsibly or carelessly due to existing false incentives. The news of fraudsters sneaking up subsidies is increasing.

“The state is a lousy entrepreneur”

The appearances of Altmaier and Scholz are characterized by superlatives. At the federal press conference, they will be presenting the rescue packages worth billions to the public with great regularity. “This is the most comprehensive and effective guarantee that there has ever been in a crisis,” said Altmaier in mid-March. “This is the bazooka, we’ll look for small arms later,” the Federal Minister of Finance said at the appearance.

The small arms that have now been added are quite large-caliber. Scholz announced a debt-financed supplementary budget of 156 billion euros. This includes an emergency fund with a volume of 50 billion euros, which is aimed at the self-employed and small businesses with up to ten employees.

The federal guarantee for the state bank KfW is increased by up to 450 billion euros. And then there is an Economic Stabilization Fund (WSF) with a volume of 600 billion euros. The majority is earmarked for government guarantees to keep companies liquid.

100 billion euros are reserved for possible investments, i.e. partial nationalization of companies. The battered Lufthansa is already holding talks about state participation.

You can still hear Altmaier’s words: “The state is a lousy entrepreneur.” The Federal Minister of Economics at least dedicated the most beautiful hall in the ministry to Ludwig Erhard. But he is currently just as far away from Erhard’s mantra as the Germans are from summer leaves in Mallorca.

Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (standing) and Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz (front)

The father of the “German economic miracle” throbbed to measure, he remembered sentences, the state should not be a player, but an arbitrator in the economy. Now the state is preparing to take over the entire football club.

No other industrial country is helping its economy with such large sums as the Federal Republic. This shows a new evaluation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He does not criticize Germany, on the contrary. “Spend as much as you can,” advises IMF chief Kristalina Georgiewa. The economic situation is too depressing.

The Council of Experts is now assuming that the economy will decline by more than 5.5 percent this year. This is the case that was previously treated as a worst-case scenario. The economic downturn would be worse than in the global financial crisis. 725,000 companies have registered financial difficulties and short-time work.

Including: hospitals. Health Minister Jens Spahn ordered them at the beginning of March to postpone all planned operations. For the hospital operator, this means severe revenue losses. More than a third of the intensive care beds are not occupied. With the Hospital Relief Act, the federal government created a regulation to compensate the clinics for the failures. But that’s far from enough.

This is the bazooka, we’ll look at small arms later. Olaf Scholz (Federal Minister of Finance)

Some private organizations have registered short-time work, including the Schön-Klinik group. The head of the German Hospital Society, Gerald Gaß, sees the time for a “careful, gradual resumption of regular care”.

Spahn also said last week that clinics could “gradually return to normal”. “We do not want to keep 40 percent of the intensive care ventilation beds in Germany permanently”, said the minister.

The pressure on the companies is huge, the need for help is great. This year alone, the federal government is raising 156 billion euros in new debt. The federal states are also preparing an extensive flood of money for pumps.

According to a survey by the Handelsblatt newspaper among the 16 state finance ministries, they are currently planning 65 billion euros in new debt to fight the crisis. In addition to the federal government’s huge € 1.2 trillion rescue package, the federal states are also helping their companies and the self-employed. Bavaria alone has launched a fund with 60 billion euros.

The IMF chief not only welcomes the gigantic aid package in Germany, the monetary fund also calls for thorough control. “Keep the bills,” said Georgiewa. Transparency and accountability should not be put off in the face of the crisis. Whether Germany is world champion in this discipline, doubts are increasing.

Risk zombie company

The financial crisis shaped a saying by the former head of central bank in Europe, Mario Draghi: “What ever it takes”. In this crisis, it becomes a “Whatever, take it!” Aid is mostly spent without checking, the money cannot be distributed quickly enough.

According to an overview by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economics, over 26 billion euros were applied for by KfW Hilfen. Almost 13,000 of the more than 13,200 applications were approved. In other words, almost anyone who wants help gets it, most likely companies that didn’t have a working business model before the pandemic.

This easily creates zombie companies that are only alive because of generous state aid. After all: With the large sums, the KfW steering committee seems to be examining it more closely. So far, around 8.5 billion euros have been approved. So it takes a little longer for the large-volume applications.

In contrast, the self-employed and small businesses with up to ten employees are suspiciously fast. So far, according to the overview of 1.65 million applications, around 1.1 million have been approved and more than nine billion euros paid out. These are not loans, but aid that does not have to be repaid.

“Speed ​​and thoroughness go hand in hand: it is carefully checked who receives the money,” Finance Minister Scholz promised. But is that true? North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin were even recently forced to suspend immediate payments because large-scale fraudsters wanted to get to the pots.

There are also problems with honest entrepreneurs. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the self-employed and small businesses are always granted the maximum amounts of EUR 9,000 and EUR 15,000 – regardless of need. This practice is not well understood in the Federal Ministry of Economics. Because a flat-rate payment of maximum amounts was actually not intended.

The aid should amount to up to 9,000 euros for companies with up to five employees and up to 15,000 euros for up to ten employees. The emphasis here is on the “up to”. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the actual amount should be based on sales and operating expenses for the next three months. An entrepreneur with zero euros turnover and 1000 euros costs would be entitled to 3000 euros in emergency aid.

But these details were lost somewhere in the confusion between the federal states and the federal states. The up to 50 billion euros are provided by the federal government. Although federal money is at stake, it is up to the federal states how much they scrutinize companies. In Hamburg, for example, a liquidity check is required. Other countries are significantly less strict so that aid can flow as quickly as possible.

In Berlin, more than a billion euros were paid out to solo and small entrepreneurs within days. And the Berlin Senate also admits behind the scenes that surely there are also deadweight effects. Since no examination was carried out, almost everyone received 14,000 euros in a combination of federal and state funds. These include the self-employed, who normally have annual sales that are significantly lower, they say.

Some recipients are now voluntarily repaying the aid for fear of sanctions. But whether a subsequent thorough examination is possible to convince fraudsters is skeptical in financial management.

Dangerous false incentives

The economic nonsense, which is operated partly in the name of Corona, is great. Governments in the federal and state governments are increasingly creating the illusion that they can regulate everything with state trillions. And more and more, government intervention and expansion is creating false incentives in all areas of the economy, which can be revenged bitterly.

Take the housing market as an example: the Federal Minister of Justice, a woman from the SPD, wanted to protect the tenants. The result is a half-baked law that gets small landlords into trouble. The law was so badly made that solvent companies like Adidas or Deichmann used the gaps and simply suspended the rent payments. Only after a storm of indignation did Adidas row back.

Take the example of KfW loans: After the institutes hesitated to pass on the subsidized loans from the Staatsbank KfW to companies because they still had to bear ten percent of the default risk, the state assumed full liability. With the danger that house banks will now be able to provide loans to companies that have long been bankrupt.

The banks don’t care, they are released from any liability, but of course they still make good money from their business. The fool is the taxpayer who has to answer for the defaults.

Example of short-time work: Short-time work allowance is a tried and tested crisis instrument. The state replaces up to 67 percent of net wages. However, the SPD was not enough. In the coalition committee on Wednesday, she pushed for an increase to 80 percent.

It is the most comprehensive and effective guarantee that there has ever been in a crisis. Peter Altmaier (Federal Minister of Economics)

However, a general increase would have significant deadweight effects: Many companies are already increasing short-time benefits from their own resources. Apart from that, the short-time work allowance is not meant to secure the standard of living, but rather to ensure the survival of companies and thus avoid unemployment.

In other areas, the federal corona strategy is rather arbitrary. The craft complained that the vehicle registration offices were closed. There is also much discussion about opening shops up to the limit of 800 square meters. This border was communicated at least improperly and caused confusion and indignation among the shopkeepers.

Now a Hamburg administrative court has declared the 800 square meter rule to be illegal. The court could not understand why opening larger sales areas alone should attract more people to the city center. Necessary infection protection measures could be followed at least as well in larger stores as in smaller facilities.

Whimsical and impractical was initially the requirement that repair shops were allowed to remain open, but the sales rooms had to be closed. Many craftsmen wondered if they could lead the customers through the sales room into the workshop. Another detail from this series of undesirable side effects of the rescue policy.

The border closures, for example with the Czech Republic, mean that the bricklayers are missing in the construction industry and the harvest workers in agriculture from Romania. The state decides a lot, but the consequences are borne by the entrepreneurs and their employees.

The argument for the state’s rapid generosity in the crisis is: rather spend more now to prevent the economy from crashing and millions of jobs be lost than have to finance mass unemployment for a long time. This approach is absolutely correct. But it also remains true: somehow the state rescue billions have to be financed at least in the medium term if the next generations are not to be overwhelmed.

Currently this is done through the use of reserves and debts. Germany certainly has scope. The Federal Republic had just pushed the debt level to below 60 percent, thereby meeting the Maastricht criteria for the first time in many years in 2019. But that will be the last time for a long time.

As a result of the corona crisis, the federal government expects a general government deficit of 7.25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year. The debt ratio as a share of all debts in GDP is estimated at 75.25 percent, as can be seen from the German Stability Program 2020.

“The projection is currently subject to very high levels of uncertainty,” says the current report. In other words, the debt level could be even higher. This mainly depends on how high the losses are that the federal government will incur from its guarantees and sureties.

Given the huge commitments, some in the grand coalition are trying to put the brakes on. “I don’t like the fact that we almost always get new suggestions every hour, what else can you do,” said Union leader Ralph Brinkhaus. “All of this must also be paid for.”

In a crisis, the state’s money is loose. Some sense their chance to finally implement long-held plans.

.

Conspiracy theory about Corona is spreading

Corona graffiti

A graffiti on a wall in Kensington in Great Britain links the corona pandemic to 5G mobile communications.

(Photo: REUTERS)

Dusseldorf When the first arson attacks on 5G cell phone antennas were carried out in Great Britain, experts at most took notice. But the situation changed within a few weeks. In the UK, more than 60 cellular antennas have already been set on fire. Authorities in the Netherlands, Cyprus and Ireland have now registered similar attacks.

The background to the attacks is a conspiracy theory that has become increasingly widespread in Europe over the past few weeks. In online forums, people claim that there is a direct link between the outbreak of the corona virus and the expansion of the latest 5G cellular standard. Scientists and experts are against it.

Nevertheless, there is growing concern about attacks in Germany. The president of the digital association Bitkom, Achim Berg, said: “Autonomous companies have just started an arson attack on a telecommunications network in the middle of Berlin.” Berg said that operators always take precautions to protect their networks. “Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that infrastructures that have been expanded in the area can be successfully attacked.”

The network operators in Germany are watching the situation. On VodafoneSpokesman said: “In the UK, there have recently been cases in which individual locations of the telecommunications infrastructure have been damaged because individuals are constructing a link between 5G and the corona virus.” The spokesman emphasized: “There is no scientific evidence or evidence for these claims. 5G, like its predecessor technologies, is a safe bet. ”

The company takes constructive criticism from concerned people seriously. “We also have an open exchange with cell phone critics,” said the spokesman. “Cases in which the infrastructure was affected by vandalism are currently not known to us in Germany.” Therefore, no additional security measures are currently being taken.

Great skepticism about network expansion

The other network operators also expressed similar comments. “Fortunately, damage to mobile phone locations due to arson, for example, occurs very rarely in this country, and the majority is pure vandalism,” said a Telefónica spokeswoman. “We do not currently see an increase, which is why there are no additional protective measures.”

At Telekom it was said: “There are always cases of vandalism,” said one Telekom spokeswoman. “But we are currently not seeing any change in us.”

graphic

The development comes at a time when there is already great skepticism about network expansion in Germany. The digital association Bitkom conducted a representative survey. Almost one in two (48 percent) spoke out against the construction of new cell towers. The Federal Network Agency had only discovered a few days ago that Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica are lagging behind the minimum requirements in expanding their networks in Germany and that there are still too many dead spots.

For years, scientific studies have dealt with the question of whether and what influence cell phone radiation has on people. The Stiftung Warentest recently summarized many of the available studies. In the analysis, the consumer organization came to the conclusion: “The research findings provide little cause for concern.”

ARD science journalist Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim did a research More specifically, a possible connection between cell phone radiation and cancer diseases and came to the conclusion: “So far, there is no conclusive hypothesis – no idea yet – how cell phone radiation could theoretically trigger cancer.”

.

This is how we pay in Corona times

DCard payment and contactless payment are apparently experiencing a surge due to the corona crisis in Germany. The demand for cash increased in the first week after March 16 because the consequences of the virus were also felt in Germany and the ATMs were so heavily visited that some banks temporarily restricted cash payments. Ralf Wintergerst, CEO of the banknote printer and security service provider Giesecke + Devrient (G + D), is familiar with such situations: “In a crisis, the demand for cash increases; not because people use it to pay, but to put it aside. “

But the tense situation and the new precautionary measures in the supermarkets apparently also favored card payments. According to the German credit industry (DK), the increase in the number of transactions with the Girocard during the crisis is around 50 percent. This is at least based on statistics from the IT service provider for Girocard, said a spokesman – the final usage figures were not yet available. More than half of all payments with Girocard are now processed contactlessly, in December it was only 35 percent.

As a measure to favor card payment, the providers had raised the limit for both the Girocard and the Mastercard, up to which contactless payments can be made without entering the PIN, from 25 to 50 euros. Visa has permitted such a limit since 2017, but whether it is used is up to the bank.

Preferred without contact

At the moment, many retailers apparently prefer to have their customers pay by card at the checkout where employees sit behind a plexiglass window. “Indeed, there is a preference among retailers who are allowed to open their stores, which is also accepted by customers,” said Ulrich Binnebößel from the HDE retail association. Retailers speak of an increase of up to 65 percent: “Hygienic arguments are in line with the trend.” Even if cash does not prove to contribute to the infection, as the Bundesbank emphasized, retailers would be interested in quick checkout processing and maintaining the distance between the customer and the checkout staff said Binnebößel.

Edeka, for example, reports a “slight increase” in payment processes with the company’s own Edeka app on the smartphone, and that all cashless payment methods, especially the Girocard, would be used more. It is even reported from individual shops that the merchants no longer wanted to accept cash at all or that cash payment was only possible after lengthy discussions.

Such news came, for example, from an Aldi-Süd branch, whereupon a company spokeswoman tried to alleviate the conflict somewhat by referring to the company’s efforts to maintain hygiene . There were also debates in regional Internet forums about which shops in the village could still be used to pay in cash. However, such concerns seem to be exaggerated, because many retailers apparently prefer to take cards, but at the same time cash.

.

Government starts preparations for campaign

With the smartphone app, which is being developed in this context, “we want to track corona contacts,” said Chancellor Helge Braun (CDU) of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung”. Specifically, voluntary app users are to be alerted subsequently if they have stayed in the vicinity of a positive corona infected person. However, this requires that the infected person also uses the system, which is technically based on Bluetooth technology.

The widespread use of digital virus defense is therefore crucial for the success of the tracking solution. Curbing the pandemic is one of the prerequisites for a later relaxation of the exit restrictions. Therefore, it is important to win as many citizens as possible for the warning app. The Federal Ministry of Economics is therefore now starting to prepare for the distribution and application of such an app.

According to information from the Handelsblatt from the ministry, the reason is the promise of the digital associations eco and BVDW to support the introduction of a Corona warning app in Germany with an advertising campaign. On Tuesday, the Commissioner for the Ministry of Economic Affairs for the Digital Economy and start-ups, Thomas Jarzombek (CDU), wants to discuss how to proceed in a video call with the associations.

“For the app to help fight the virus effectively, as many people in Germany and Europe as possible have to use this app,” Jarzombek told the Handelsblatt. “That is why I am very pleased that the internet industry wants to get involved and that the app wants to advertise intensively.” The industry shows that everyone can benefit from the innovations of digitization.

The internet association eco announced a quick implementation of the app campaign. “It is of central importance that we get all stakeholders to the table in a timely manner,” said the association’s CEO, Oliver Süme, the Handelsblatt. His association would be happy to make a concept proposal.

Broad alliance against Corona

“Our aim is to achieve the greatest possible reach as quickly and effectively as possible and to win as many people as possible to use this app.” He would therefore be “particularly happy if other associations, organizations and prominent individuals joined our initiative Added Süme. “A broad alliance of politics, the digital economy and civil society against Corona – that is our goal.”

The Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) and its digital experts are behind the efforts of the federal government to reduce the current restrictions on movement through Corona. “This initiative by Thomas Jarzombek is particularly promising if the procedure is coordinated and coordinated,” BVDW Managing Director Marco Junk told Handelsblatt. “We are facing the greatest medical disaster in the past 100 years.” The effects on the economy and society are devastating. “Here, as a digital and internet economy, we will pull together across associations.”

Of course, according to Junk, it must be ensured that data protection requirements are observed. “For acceptance, nothing would be more harmful and more serious than a failure in this area,” emphasized the BVDW managing director. “With its digital experts, the BVDW is fully behind this project.” The president of the IT association Bitkom, Achim Berg, sees it similarly: “We need this app now and have to get it started as soon as possible,” said Berg recently the Handelsblatt.

The fact that the use of a technical solution does not require a legal basis with the participation of the Bundestag speaks for a quick app start. Chancellor Braun said this was because the concept of the app was voluntary and should be in line with European data protection. “We do not need an amendment to the law, but the willingness of the population to participate,” said the CDU politician.

Legal and domestic politicians in the Bundestag share Braun’s assessment. “I don’t see that we have to create a special legal basis for this. The concept relies entirely on voluntariness, ”said the legal spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Jan-Marco Luczak (CDU), the Handelsblatt. “Nobody is forced to download the app, or is forcibly located or identified.”

FDP wants “declaration of no objection” by the federal data protection officer

If, as planned, it is technically ensured that in the event of an infection the contact persons of the infected person are warned without their identity or cell phone number being known, he considers this to be “unproblematic”. “It is questionable whether there will be any fundamental rights interference,” said Luczak. “In any case, the intervention would be very indirect and mild and therefore justified in my view.”

The Greens legal politician Katja Keul said similarly. “If such an app processes anonymized data, is strictly voluntary and no new databases with sensitive health data are created, compliance with the applicable data protection regulations should be sufficient,” Keul told the Handelsblatt. However, the desire for high usage should not lead to a reduction in the general side effects of such apps and a permanent reduction in the sensitivity of the population to data protection. “The suitability of the app for protection against infection must therefore be continuously evaluated,” says Keul.

The FDP interior expert Konstantin Kuhle suggested that the app be examined by the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, Ulrich Kelber. “He should make a safety declaration in advance with a view to the specific design of the app,” said Kuhle the Handelsblatt. Kelber’s authority plays a “key role” in controlling the app.

From Kuhle’s point of view, the Corona app would be compatible with data protection if it were voluntary, the citizens could transparently understand how it works and the data was only stored locally on the mobile phone. “In such a case, the providers could offer this solution without a legal basis,” he said. However, that does not mean that the use of such an instrument can bypass the Parliament.

“The MPs should check carefully whether the promises made by the federal government in connection with the app are actually met,” emphasized Kuhle. In particular, care must be taken to ensure that “no constraint through the back door” arises from the voluntary use or that data is collected or transmitted that the user has not consented to.

It is planned that citizens will voluntarily download the app to their cell phones and will be informed if they are in the vicinity of an infected person, without providing further details about the infected person. “Then those affected can go to quarantine in good time after consultation with the health authorities and quickly do a corona test,” said Chancellor Braun. “This is then much more precise than the interviews we still have today, in which everyone should remember everyone and know everyone he met.”

More: Read here why the economy is demanding a second corona rescue package.

.

Data protection compliant platform for tracking developed

Düsseldorf, Berlin 130 scientists and technology experts have developed a platform with which Corona apps in Europe can work in compliance with data protection regulations. The German app will probably also run on it. The platform is called Pepp-pt. That stands for Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing. It has been developed since March 4th.

The team presented their technology via video conference on Wednesday morning. In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute Berlin, various universities and the mobile operator Vodafone are involved in the project.

Pepp-pt offers technologies and services for corona tracking apps so that they can work in compliance with the strict European data protection law. The working group wants to ensure that such apps are voluntary, do not share personal data, that the system is secure and that there is uniformity in the EU so that people can move around again soon.

The technology for the apps works as follows: The app remembers who the user has encountered longer and more closely in the past two weeks. This means that the app identification numbers are saved by people who have been close to the respective user for a few minutes.

The data is encrypted and stored locally on the user’s smartphone. If a user finds that he is sick, he can change his status in the app. The health authorities then have to confirm this so that nobody uses the system to quarantine their neighbors or parents.

The app creates an individual and regularly changing identification number (ID) for each user. The app regularly sends this ID to the world via a Bluetooth signal and simultaneously searches for signals from other IDs. If it finds them, they are stored in encrypted form on the user’s cell phone for two weeks. He has no access to it.

Vodafone Labs and other German institutes are working on correctly measuring the Bluetooth signals so that the distance can be correctly estimated. This varies with different smartphone models. To do this, they cooperate with the Bundeswehr, which takes measurements with its soldiers.

The user does not have to provide any personal data; installation on a smartphone is sufficient. The app is said to have updates directly from the operating system operators Apple or Googlebe played on the phone. The user must then agree or disagree. This is intended to achieve the greatest possible coverage.

The goal: reduce the infection rate

According to the researchers, around 60 percent of the population should use at least one such app so that it works as well as possible. The aim is to reduce the contagion rate from the current 2.5 to less than 1. This means that an infected person no longer infects an average of 2.5 others as is currently the case, but less than one.

The system is very secure, said Chris Boos, founder of Arago and member of the digital government of the federal government, Thomas Wiegand, head of the Heinrich Hertz Institute in Berlin and Marcel Salathé, head of the Swiss Digital Epidemiology Lab at a press conference on Wednesday morning.

The platform and technology have been reviewed by IT security experts. The developers also invite others to test security. The source code is not yet publicly available as open source, but that is yet to come. According to the developers, because the apps only store data that other phones actively send, no gate is opened for attackers. Even if someone stole the data, it could not be assigned to a single person.

So far, there are no apps in most European countries, such as those used in Asia. Since the European data protection requirements are comparatively high, this platform should make development easier and more uniform for everyone. So far Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland are represented in the Pepp-pt initiative.

In Germany, a team around the Robert Koch Institute is still working on an app that is likely to look exactly like this. According to the Reuters news agency, it is currently scheduled for April 16. Until then, Pepp-pt’s technology is still being tested.

The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Ulrich Kelber, said that he and the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) had given advice and answered questions from the project initiators. But one is not part of the initiative: “We cannot give a seal because we could not of course look at everything. So we were more pilots to stay in the picture. ”

Basically, Kelber again emphasized that he considered the demands for compulsory digital data collection to be absurd: “You will only get accurate data from cell phones if the people participate in large numbers.

Forced evaluation via an installed app or an evaluation of the operating systems can easily be boycotted: battery out, change settings, leave cell phone. Coercion is ineffective. ”The Pepp-Pt initiative, on the other hand, follows good approaches such as the local storage and pseudonymization of the data.

The app initiative is very popular in politics: “I am convinced that many will use this app voluntarily to protect themselves and others,” said the deputy chairwoman of the SPD parliamentary group, Bärbel Bas. “In the fight against the corona pandemic, cell phones can help make infection chains visible.”

IT industry welcomes Corona warning app

Bas recalled that the incubation period, i.e. the period from the day of infection to the day on which the first symptoms appear, could take up to 14 days. “It is all the more important to find contact persons for infected people quickly,” emphasized the SPD politician. The app will help.

SPD digital politician Jens Zimmermann is also convinced: “A trustworthy cellphone tracking app could make a major contribution to containing the corona virus.” Singapore and South Korea were already working with apps, but they did not meet European data protection standards.

A German app solution must therefore ensure that no questions regarding data protection remain unanswered. “This includes complete anonymization and trustful use of the data,” says Zimmermann. The installation and use of the app must also be voluntary.

From the FDP’s point of view, no special legal regulation is necessary for the app solution presented. The initiative shows “that health protection and data protection do not have to be played off against each other even in this crisis,” said Manuel Höferlin, chairman of the digital committee in the Bundestag.

Movement and contact details could also be used within the framework of the applicable data protection. There is no need for a new legal basis with which the population is obliged to pass on data, especially since there is an “enormous willingness” to participate in a Corona app.

There is also a lot of encouragement for the Corona warning app from the IT industry: “I am very pleased that the project of a Corona tracking app was implemented by an international team of scientists and developers and can now be launched” said the president of the digital association Bitkom, Achim Berg.

“As soon as this app is available, I will install it immediately. And I call on everyone to now set their personal priorities for the protection of human lives. ”The more they took part, the greater the effect. “We can only stop the virus together,” says Berg.

More: What the Corona app could look like

.

Scholz publishes billions of euros for the start-up scene

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz

The start-up scene receives another two billion euros in aid from the federal government – in addition to the decision already made to include larger start-ups with a rating of 50 million euros or more under the Corona liquidity umbrella.

(Photo: AFP)

Berlin, Hamburg Thomas Jarzombek (CDU), the digital representative of the federal government, was rather vague in the morning. In an online press conference, the start-up association switched the politicians on for a few warm words to an association survey that was to shake up: More than 90 percent of the start-ups surveyed fear sales in the corona crisis, 70 percent even fear for their existence . From Jarzombek’s words that the “end of the flag” had not yet been reached for state aid, it was not foreseeable how quickly the call for help should be answered.

Just over two hours later, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) surprised even some of his officials who had remained in the Berlin Ministry with a statement in Munich about the Corona aid with an almost incidental announcement: the start-up scene is getting another two billion Help from the federal government – in addition to the decision already made to include larger start-ups under the Corona liquidity umbrella with a valuation of EUR 50 million or more.

With the two additional billions, Scholz is fulfilling some of the wishes that the German early-stage investors gathered in the start-up association had expressed. On the one hand, they fear that firmly scheduled follow-up investment rounds for their portfolio companies may fail to materialize because there are no longer any lenders.

Then founders who burn a lot of initial capital would have to give up. On the other hand, start-up financiers fear the loss of their own donors, i.e. those investors who have already committed to the venture capital funds but have not yet paid them in.

Scholz starts at both points. On the one hand, it fulfills the wish of the start-up association and the digital association Bitkom for a matching fund. The aim is to increase donor investments with funding. Existing public promotional funds such as KfW Capital and the European Investment Fund EIF are to receive additional money with which they can increase start-up investments by private venture capitalists. This is intended to increase the investment sum without the need for additional tests. KfW Capital is to coordinate this program.

Corona crisis speeds up implementation of an old idea

The state also wants to jump aside the venture capital fund should investors fail. Most recently, these had increasingly been financed by capital commitments from family entrepreneurs, who are often new to the venture capital asset class – and may now fail in the crisis. The Ministry of Finance does not see this danger in the short term, but in the medium term public donors such as the EIF should be able to intervene in such cases.

The aim is to build a functioning European secondary market for such fund shares, it said. In addition, the German government wants to obtain permission from the EU to support small start-ups and medium-sized companies with sales of up to EUR 75 million that have so far had no investor on board.

With the extensive projects, Scholz apparently prefers a part of a longer-considered program. The Federal Government has been planning a fund of funds of up to ten billion euros to support German start-up financiers since the end of 2019 – also to strengthen its importance to foreign investors. The corona crisis is now accelerating this last stalling idea.

Initially, the fund was only supposed to amount to one billion euros at the start. Now the new ad hoc program is twice as big – and comes on top of the other funding programs such as short-time working, which are also open to start-ups. CDU digital politician Tankred Schipanski sees the additional measures as an “important contribution to maintaining our start-up and innovation ecosystem”.

More: There should be no comprehensive comprehensive insurance for risk capital

.

Corona becomes a great opportunity for a podcast platform

Podimo manager Nicolaus Berlin

The number of listeners doubled in a month.

(Photo: Podimo)

Munich No drink in the bar, no espresso in the café, no training in the gym: the Germans have to stay at home these days. For Nicolaus Berlin with his podcast app Podimo, this is a huge opportunity. “Every day is now Sunday,” says the German head of the Danish start-up. That means: people have time to try new things.

And they do that too. At the beginning of March, Podimo had 50,000 users, at the beginning of April there would be twice as many, the 29-year-old estimates. “Since there is an unmistakable demand for podcasts, we have grown very rapidly in the past few months,” said Berlin. “Especially in the last week, the number of users has risen sharply.” Since many other leisure activities are now out of interest, the doctorate in economics believes that it could rise sharply.

Via Podimo, users have access to a wide variety of podcasts. Algorithms look for the right offers. At the same time, ten employees at the German headquarters in Berlin search the network for attractive programs.
In the basic version, the offer is free of charge.

Podimo earns money with premium members who each pay five euros a month. Part of it flows to the podcasters. Subscribers get access to podcasts from Podimo and partners that cannot be heard anywhere else. Currently there are 20 channels, by the end of April there should be more than 50.

Industry is booming anyway

Podimo would come at the right time even without a corona virus. Because Germans are using more and more podcasts. In a Bitkom survey last year, a good quarter of people said that at least every now and then they listen to programs on the Internet. In 2016 it was only 16 percent. In the United States, one in three regularly podcasts, and in South Korea even more than half of the population. Market observers estimate that between 6,000 and 8,000 podcasts are produced regularly in Germany.

Some start-ups see this as an opportunity. The former board member of Pro Sieben Sat 1, Marcus Englert, recently founded Julep. The company has started to market podcasts. “We are spot on in terms of both time and ideas,” says the 54-year-old. He wants to create a marketplace where podcast providers and advertisers come together.

However, the podcast business is competitive. Global streaming platforms such as Spotify court for the listeners, and also large media groups such as RTL and Per seven Sat 1 push into the growth field.

The Danish Morten Strunge founded Podimo last spring. Venture capitalists invested six million euros in the company. Podimo was launched in Germany in November – and initially caused trouble among passionate podcasters. If you wanted to use the app, you had to register. This displeased the creative and has since been changed.

The most popular is the category “True Crime”, that is, thrillers based on actually committed crimes. For many people, this is a wonderful way to escape everyday life, says Nicolaus Berlin. This is probably more important than ever at the moment.

More: On the podcast wave – media manager Englert is following the trend

.

Corona pandemic: Netflix throttles streaming

Düsseldorf, Berlin, Brussels The economy and society in Europe have never been more dependent on data networks than they are today. Whether home office or video telephony with friends: the networks are becoming the digital lifeline in Europe. The more people use telework, follow digital learning content or pass the time with online films, the more data rates increase. Concern about a possible network overload is omnipresent.

The world’s largest video streaming service Netflix has now drawn consequences: In Europe, the quality of the transmission will be throttled for 30 days, as the US company announced on Thursday. The videos would continue to be broadcast in “good quality”, but caused around 25 percent less data traffic, said Netflix.

The provider responded with the step to an appeal by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton. He had spoken to Netflix boss Reed Hastings on Thursday for the second day in a row and suggested that the image quality should be automatically reduced from HD to standard resolution when the workload was high. Netflix recommends an Internet speed of five megabits per second for HD (High Definition), while the standard resolution is three megabits per second.

There are still only a few signs that teleworking and streaming could put excessive strain on the networks. But the EU Commission and the national supervisory authorities want to ensure that the capacities are sufficient even if more people work or study from home due to the pandemic. So they appealed in a joint statement on Thursday not only on video platforms, but also to end users, with leisure activities such as streaming entertainment films not to disrupt the work of companies or online learning content.

Network operators left in Germany

The CEO of Deutsche Telekom, Timotheus Höttges, said: “Our networks always have to be stable and secure.” His company had taken all the necessary precautions for this. “Our network is the lifeline of digital coexistence.” According to Deutsche Telekom, it has registered increasing data rates, especially in the fixed network. However, these are not critical for the systems. The two other mobile network operators in Germany also gave the all-clear, Vodafone and Telefónica.

Data traffic at the world’s largest internet node in Frankfurt increased by ten percent in the week to Wednesday, reports operator DE-CIX. An increase of 20 percent has been recorded across all locations since the beginning of March.

Video conferences in particular contributed to the increase, with an increase of around 50 percent, but also increased access to company networks via encrypted VPN connections. In addition, the Internet is becoming more and more important when it comes to leisure activities: DE-CIX records an increase of 25 percent in online games. The use of social media platforms is also increasing significantly.

Despite the sharp rise, no bottlenecks are to be expected, says head of technology Thomas King: “The capacities in our own network will be expanded regularly and in the long term.” As soon as the load is 63 percent, investments will be made again. DE-CIX therefore calms down: Even if all companies in Europe were to focus exclusively on remote work, the data hub would be powerful enough.

Telekom is giving away extra data volume

At Deutsche Telekom, the situation is seen so relaxed that the company itself made additional offers to its customers. Telekom provided ten gigabytes of additional mobile data volume per month free of charge and offered home office solutions and video streaming services for a limited time. This should the DaxGroup rather drive the data volume.

The situation is different in Spain. There, the five major network operators called on their customers last Sunday not to use data-intensive streaming services such as films or games as far as possible during normal working hours in order not to overload the networks excessively. The ADSLZone website reported on Sunday that the web was ten percent slower due to congestion. But no major problems have occurred since then, although all schools have been closed this week and a large part of the shops have had to close.

EU Commissioner Breton also encouraged network operators to take countermeasures in the event of an impending overload. The EU rules for free internet access give them the necessary scope. In the past, scenarios were discussed in which computer games are deliberately slowed down in order to enable smooth access to learning content from school platforms.

However, such interventions are politically sensitive because they could shake the principle of net neutrality. According to the EU regulation, telecommunications providers must not restrict traffic in their networks, and they must not prefer or disadvantage individual services. But there are exceptions, for example to temporarily avoid bottlenecks in special situations.

“Moderate increase of around ten percent”

The President of the IT association Bitkom, Achim Berg, welcomed the EU Commission’s move to reduce data in video streaming services. “If, contrary to expectations, congestion scenarios arise in the telecommunications networks, the dialogue between video-on-demand providers and network operators provided by the European Union makes sense,” said Berg. Much of the data traffic in the networks is caused by video streaming. “Reducing the video resolution can significantly reduce this burden and at the same time ensure the basic availability of the offers.”

Berg believes that landline and mobile communications infrastructure in Germany is “well armed” for the increased use of digital applications and services in the wake of the corona crisis. “Network operators are currently experiencing a moderate increase of around ten percent in data traffic,” explained the Bitkom President. The peak loads would continue to be reached in the evening when streaming services are used particularly heavily. However, the network operators continuously checked the stability of the networks. Berg says: “Any bottlenecks can be prevented by effective network management.”

More: The corona virus is a stress test for the data networks.

.

The vast majority support work in the home office

Berlin Many employees in Germany are open to the possibility of mobile work in the home office. This is the result of a representative survey of around 2,500 employees from all industries, which the polling institute Civey carried out on behalf of the eco association of the internet industry. The survey was available to the Handelsblatt in advance.

For example, a large majority of more than 85 percent of respondents endorsed the possibility of working from home if their work permits. Around a third of employees (32.6 percent) also say that they will increasingly be using video conferences to communicate with customers and colleagues in the near future. Over 20 percent want to use more tools for online project work in a team. Around ten percent are increasingly relying on digital training opportunities.

Eco managing director Alexander Rabe attributes the great popularity for the digitization of work processes to the corona crisis and the associated restrictions. This prompts companies and employers to use virtual and decentralized forms of cooperation wherever possible.

“Skepticism about technology was yesterday,” said Rabe. “We will now see more and more concrete positive examples of the digitalization of business and society.” This includes the option of working from home in times of crisis. “Numerous companies are now switching to home offices, even though it seemed impossible for years,” says Rabe. “The Internet has become the central tool of interaction these days and is currently keeping economic and social life going.”

Numerous German companies have sent their employees to their home office due to the corona virus pandemic. Thousands are now sitting at home in the work or living room. Politicians also forego personal meetings and connect from afar.

The finance minister also switches to the home office

Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz also prescribed home work. The SPD politician said on Twitter: “Today I also do home office after I woke up with a bad cold. And to be on the safe side, I am going to be tested, not unimportant in these times. ”As a side effect, he could sit in the sun while working, Scholz wrote – accompanied by a photo with a view of the table, tablet, coffee cup and glasses on a sunlit balcony.

Meetings and conversations in the tea kitchen take the place of conference calls and video services. Providers like Cisco and Microsoft, Team viewer and Zoom have significantly higher traffic in these weeks, which they are reinforcing with their free offers.

However, there were some disruptions on the first days of the shutdown, as the massive restrictions on public life are called on social media. On Monday, for example, the Microsoft teams collaboration service in Europe was only partially accessible. On Tuesday, Cisco reported “degraded performance” on its Webex service, particularly when it comes to meetings.

“Corona is an opportunity like a call to digitize business, administration and healthcare even more decisively and faster,” said the president of the digital association Bitkom, Achim Berg. Technologies for web conferences should be introduced and home offices should become the standard. Before the outbreak of the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic, however, not only many managers in companies or organizations were skeptical of the home office, but also a number of employees.

Bitkom itself found out at the end of last year that four out of ten permanent employees (41 percent) were allowed to work in the home office, but most of them thankfully refused to do so.

More: Read here why the home office opens new gateways for hackers.

.