For the politik-digital.de video-feature “In Passing”, the Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble reveals that he is filing his tax return online, explains the role of the state in the world of digital communication and hopes that more citizens will participate in democracy.
politik-digital.de: How do you use the internet privately?
Wolfgang Schäuble: Once in a while I take a look at ard.de [one of the two main public TV stations] or SpiegelOnline.de. Besides, I use modern communication technology. I don’t use email a lot myself, but sometimes together with my children. Apart from that, my office is helping me. I conduct my banking activities online. I also file my tax return on the internet… What else? I try not to spend too much of my time only with the modern communication technologies.
How do you use the internet for the election campaign?
Schäuble: Of course, for political communication, we need to use those ways of publicity that are being used today. And modern communication technology is constantly becoming more important. We also use modern information technology a lot for administration purposes. As the Minister of Interior I am responsible for that. For this reason, I was at the CeBIT last week, where we always have a section for Civil Service. We have advanced a lot of things, like the standardized telephone number for Civil Service. We are working on a citizen’s portal, De-Mail – safe email. By the way, the much criticized law „Safety in information technology“ is also an element. As the state, it is our role, and my responsibility, to guarantee the safety of the web, that also means the reliability of communication. Nowadays, when you want to send a contract by email, you still have to send it also by paper mail. With De-Mail you won’t have to do that any longer. So we deal a lot with this. At the same time we also have to see to that communication is safe, especially with issues that are sensitive in terms of safety policy.
How much „e“ can democracy bear?
Schäuble: We will see. It will be sorted out in one way or another. At the moment I also hope that the new media will result in more people participating in democratic discussions and in democratic decision-making. In America, this seems to have been the case during the presidential election campaigns. But also in France, when Nicolas Sarkozy won against Ségolène Royal, this played an important role. I wish something similar will happen in Germany as well. However, every progress entails risks and opportunities. We have just seen this with innovative financial products. Similarly, modern information technology is not without risks, as we have seen with the issue of the increasing tendency to violence at the other end or at the beginning of our debate.
Do you feel hit by the allegation: Schäuble = Stasi [former GDR secret police] 2.0
Schäuble: Well, I took it rather ironically. You have to bear some jokes at your own expense. What I’d find bothering is, if more and more young people are misled to believe that our Order of Freedom has a similarity with the system of injustice that the Stasi represented. That is not funny anymore. And look, when the same people who now, after the massacre of Winnenden, say we should hand over all our guns to the police, or we should have entrance control in schools – when those people are saying at the same time we’d be living in a surveillance society, this is such a contradiction, that I hope that modern information technology will not lead to the loss of all sanity/rationality, but that we can keep a certain degree of temperance when we level criticism.