>> It might not seem like it, but Germany, the industrial powerhouse of Europe, never fully embraced the digital age.>> Everybody's talking about broadband. And it's come to many people. But unfortunately, not us.>> Hyco-Semler's Company makes heavy machinery for construction purposes. Like countless other blue-collar, small, and mid-sized businesses.
And until last spring, whenever a new order came in, it was handled the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper.>> He said that he faced a psychological barrier to embracing digitalization.>> That's Reuters' Paul Carroll from the Berlin bureau, who visited Hyco.>> It took a government scheme to give him a push to do so.
Now that he has done so, he's very happy. But there's also some conservatism and some ignorance there. So it's sort of a come back, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has appointed a digitalization czar, if you like, Dorothea Bar, who's working with her base at the Chancellor here.>> Germany fears that if it doesn't catch up, that it'll be eclipsed by the sheer scale of rivals.
Berlin has a healthy tech and startup scene, but it doesn't extend to the rest of the country. For example, only 2% of Germany's broadband internet customers are hooked up by fiber optic cable. In the much bigger United States, it's 12%>> Spain, for all its economic problems, 40.
Japan's approaching 80. Germany set aside $2.5 billion for its digitalization initiative. That's a precious resource for the digital czar, but only 3% of it was used last year.>> The money is there. I know the Defence and Development Ministries have their own desires, but everything else has to get in line, because digitalization is an investment in the future.
>> So Germany is partly a victim of its own success here. The economy is doing so well, so the construction companies are in a very good position. They can pick and choose which contracts they take on. Laying these broadband cables with glass fiber is quite hard to do, and they tend to take on the easy contracts.
And they can make good profit margins there anyway.>> One lawmaker driving the push said, many Germans are still stuck in the age of the fax machine.