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Time to Talk: Transatlantic Digital Debates

Time to Talk: Transatlantic Digital Debates

Conny Dörfler, in the team of the ARD Chairman at Bayerischer Rundfunk for the next two years, talks to Nunatak about the Transatlantic Digital Debates, which we supported in 2017.

Conny, you participated in the Transatlantic Digital Debates. Can you tell us about what is debated there?

The two Global Public Policy Institute Think Tanks from Berlin and New America from Washington organize the Transatlantic Digital Debates together. Every year, a group of young people spends two weeks taking a closer look at the future of the digital society.

What was the professional background of your group?

Our group consisted of nine Germans and nine Americans from the fields of science, politics and the economy. We spoke to experts and practitioners from different areas in order to understand the challenges of digitalization for transatlantic relationships. In order to do so, two discussion phases took place in Germany and the USA, each lasting one week. The contributors we were able to talk to were extremely interesting. Even more exciting, however, was the networking effect with the other participants. It became clear to us all how fruitful it is when people from different cultures and professional backgrounds discuss with each other. I would also like to integrate this into my everyday work.

What did you find most fascinating during the two weeks?

Of course, I found the topics I also encounter in my everyday work particularly exciting. And this year, both in Germany and the USA, fake news was a huge topic. It was interesting for me to understand that the fake news itself is not the actual problem, as it is possible to “combat” this from a technological or editorial perspective. However, the underlying problem that certain social groups are receptive to such manipulation has not yet been solved. As such, we repeatedly discovered in our Transatlantic Digital Debates that things we observe in the digital world are often just a reflection of or a catalyst for social problems.

During our discussions, we also noticed that technologies do not fundamentally change human behavior, but that expectations change. Thanks to social media, for example, people have become used to the possibility of personalization and interaction and of fast feedback. They now also have these expectations of political processes. As a result, politics – just like companies – are faced with the challenge of completely rethinking the involvement of the “customer”.

During your week in the USA you also went to Austin, Texas – what impressed you most there?

Austin is not only a city with many start-ups. The city administration also wants to go digital. There is an innovation office in the City of Austin for this purpose. Working like an in-house consultancy, the Office of Innovation uses Design Thinking methods and looks for user-centric solutions and services that can improve the lives of the city inhabitants.
And it was the team from the city administration that impressed us most during our week in the USA! I can really recommend applying to participate in the Transatlantic Digital Debates. Not only because I took away many suggestions and ideas for my everyday work but also because of the interesting people you get to know in the program – a network I’m sure to benefit from for a long time to come!

Discussing Digital Transformation: A Nunatak Session @TDD2017

Discussing Digital Transformation: A Nunatak Session @TDD2017


This year’s edition of the Transatlantic Digital Debates could not have come at a better time: In a week where U.S. President Donald Trump backed out of The Paris Agreement and German Chancellor Angela Merkel dominated the headlines by stating that Europe must now live on its own strength, 18 young fellows (9 from the U.S., 9 from Germany) met in Berlin to discuss digitization and its implications on modern society. “It’s a unique way to expand one´s network with a broad set of diverse backgrounds, all dealing with the latest challenges of digitization”, stated one of the fellows.

The professional backgrounds of this year’s participants were truly diverse, with employers ranging from Uber to ARD (German Public Broadcasting) to law firms, as well as research organizations and networks from Palo Alto. The program is in its second year of operation and is mainly set up by two think tanks, the Global Public Policy Institute and New America headquartered in Berlin and Washington D.C. respectively, while Microsoft, Intel, the Bertelsmann Foundation, and The Nunatak Group supported TDD 2017 by providing content and stipends.

Principal Dr. Fabian Göbel and Managing Partner Robert Jacobi of The Nunatak Group jointly hosted a session on digitization of business models in the media, insurance and automotive sectors. “We chose specific examples from our daily business practice to ensure that the participants are able to derive hands-on lessons”, said Dr. Göbel. After a short introduction from Mr. Jacobi on the impacts of digitization on society (some positive, others unfavorable) and the challenges big corporations face when trying to adjust to a transforming environment, the fellows received case studies for each of the previously mentioned industries. Within just over an hour, the fellow participants managed to work out creative solutions for each industry: A premium car-sharing service located in Denver, a news product financed though vouchers, sold at cashiers and distributed in schools, and a life insurance product for millennials, directly linked to their individual bank accounts.

“This was a very inspiring session that made the fellows think hard about how companies might provide profitable services in a digital age”, Thorsten Benner, the founder of GPPi, said. After three days in Berlin as well as meetings with federal agencies, academics and corporations to discuss trending topics such as cyber security, artificial intelligence and the internet of things, the fellows moved on to Hamburg for further debate sessions and will continue onto Washington D.C. and Austin this upcoming Fall in September.

Applications for the 2018 edition of the Transatlantic Digital Debates will be open starting November 2017.

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