German Federal State announces economic stimulus package aimed at IT industry

April 1, 2009

The government of the German Federal State of Hesse has announced a new spending programme to stimulate the economy of Hesse in the current financial and economic crisis. Hesse’s Prime Minister, Roland Koch, and several members of his cabinet will jointly present today a 1.7 bn EUR economic stimulus package called “Hesse 2.0” aimed at the state’s IT and media industry. The spending is scheduled to begin already in 2009.

According to a press release issued by the office of the Prime Minister of Hesse, the money from the current economic stimulus packages of both the Federal government and the government of the State of Hesse will go mainly to the automotive and construction industry, “and that is a good thing. However, it is important to also provide the IT industry, a modern and seminal industry sector, with a stimulus.” The press release denies any nexus with the recent breakdown of an important part of the IT infrastructure of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA), thought by many to be due to a terrorist act by the IT industry, which is feeling neglected in the current crisis. BAFA is responsible for the payment of the “break-up-your-old-car-and buy-a new-one subsidy”, which is the best-known part of the Federal Government’s current economic stimulus package.

One major part of the new package is the plan to digitalize all non-personal public sector (i.e., publicly financed) information and to make it available online in open formats for use and re-use by citizens including providers of commercial services. “The aim of this package is not to blindly throw money at the economy just for the sake of doing something. It is an instrument of a modern economic policy”, the press release states. “We are making possible the development of new and innovative services. Services innovation not only makes services firms internationally competitive, but also allows them to be ‘enablers’ and ‘change agents’ and thereby the mechanisms through which much innovation takes place in other traditional industries and across the economy.” The release cites as an example the added-value services based on Google Earth.

Another element included in the package is the safeguarding and digitalisation of libraries’ and archives’ repositories. “The recent collapse of the Municipal Archive in Cologne, which not only killed two people but also destroyed priceless items of our historical heritage, has alerted us to the fact that even the safeguarding of our most important historical documents is literally taking decades because only a handful of people are working on it, and that the rest is being neither safeguarded nor digitalised. This is a shame and cannot be tolerated any longer.” Most of the content of the repositories is also to be made available for use and re-use on the Internet. The government strongly encourages the holders of the repositories to hire people from among the unemployed to contribute to this very labour-intensive work. —-
I’m so sorry, but I’m from Continental Europe and therefore this is nothing but an April Fool’s Day joke.

But does it have to remain one?
Who says that the money from the economic stimulus packages must be spent on economically pointless sales promotion activities like the idiotic German “break-up-your-old-car-and-buy-a-new-one subsidy”? Who says that large parts of our cultural heritage must slowly but inevitably decay in library and archive repositories, inaccessible to most people and vulnerable to accidents? Who says that only a handful of people must be employed for the tedious task of taking photographs of at least our most important historical documents, so that even this has to take decades?

Where are the entrepreneurs?

Where are the museum curators? The librarians? The archivists? Is wringing your hands about the funding cuts you’re experiencing all you can do? Go to your directors, tell them to stress the value of their treasures as a resource for research, the creative arts and, yes, possibly also commercial activities when they go and ask for more digitalisation activities to be undertaken! Tell your readers and visitors about the issue, make them sign petitions, ask them to tell others!

Where are the feuilleton journalists? Is writing snobbish articles about pop culture and television all you can do? Go and publish this or write your own and better article on the subject! And tell your friends from the Economy section (if you have any) about it!

Where are the technology journalists? Can you write anything in plain English? Go to your colleagues from the feuilleton and economy sections and give it to them, because ordinary people don’t read what you’re writing, and you ought to be less proud of that!
Where are the intellectuals? The writers? The artists? Is drafting resolutions the best you can do? Go out and be creative to make people see why you’re hungry for the content sitting in the repositories!

If anyone reading this would like to have an open meeting (“salon”) to discuss these topics in Frankfurt am Main, please let me know.

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