About the Program

Digitalization is radically transforming our societies – creating new opportunities as well as regulatory challenges. We need to work towards a better understanding of these developments and towards new global rules and standards that enable us to jointly shape digital futures.

The Challenge

Different assessments of economic and security policy issues in the digital realm continue to generate conflicts between Germany and the US. Yet in both countries, and in Europe more generally, digitalization is at the heart of the increasing questioning of liberal democracy and the protest votes that have emboldened populist forces. From the growing automation of industries to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, conflicts linked to technological change played a significant role in the American presidential race of 2016 and will also shape the German Bundestag election in September 2017.

In this heated political climate, establishing joint rules, with regard to transatlantic data flows, for example, becomes even harder. What is more, the US and Germany face a global environment in which authoritarian governments are advancing their own visions of how to regulate the digital sphere. As a consequence, countries such as Turkey or India no longer necessarily look to Germany, Europe, or the US when it comes to regulating new technologies.

The Program

Now in its second year, the Transatlantic Digital Debates aim to support transatlantic political discussion and enhance cooperation. The program engages 18 young professionals (nine from the US and nine from Germany) from the public sector, civil society, business, and academia who want to make a difference on these key challenges at the intersection of technology and policy. For the 2017 round, the fellows will meet for two sessions:

  • May 28–June 3, 2017: Berlin and Hamburg
  • November 4–11, 2017: Washington, DC and Austin

Through workshops and conversations with leading decision-makers and experts from various sectors, the fellows will engage in open and provocative discussions on the best approaches to shaping our rapidly changing digital societies and economies. In the capitals Washington, DC and Berlin, the focus will be on interaction with policy-makers, while Austin and Hamburg both offer opportunities to interact with growing technology companies on both sides of the Atlantic.

Discussions will take place around two main issue areas: innovation and regulation in the digital economy, and the relationship between cybersecurity and privacy. More specifically, there will be discussions and expert exchanges on emerging cybersecurity threats, as well as the challenges that come with the increasing automation of our industries and the growing use of algorithms. These will be embedded in broader policy debates tied the 2017 German federal elections, as well as the impact of policies put forward by the Trump administration.

Above all, the program seeks to build trust among participants and establish a long-term network of individuals committed to shaping the future of digitalization. To this end, the project team aims to create a strong alumni community and engage former participants in future sessions. The project team will also support individual fellows or small groups of fellows to write op-eds and blog posts on the issues discussed. Their writing, as well as podcasts that reflect the discussions, will be shared widely through social media, the TDD website, and other news outlets.

Organizer and Funders

The Transatlantic Digital Debates are organized by the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin and New America in Washington, DC, with guidance from a steering committee of experts from a range of stakeholder groups. The program is generously supported by the Transatlantic Program of the German Federal Government, with funding from the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Additional support is provided by IBM, Microsoft, The Nunatak Group and the Bertelsmann Foundation North America.