Stefan Schnorr has been involved with digitization since the 1990s. Back then, when he was appointed to the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Justice from his judgeship, one of his first tasks was to set up the first Internet connections in the ministry’s press office. The days of screeching modems are long gone, but the subject still excites Schnorr.
The 59-year-old Schnorr comes from a small town in the Oberbergische Kreis district in the south of North Rhine-Westphalia. He has been State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport since 2021, where he is responsible for digitization. He had been responsible for digital issues at the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action since 2010. Despite being close to the FDP, he rose to the position of department head under SPD politicians before Volker Wissing brought him to the BMDV. His rise reflects the increasing relevance of digital issues. “In the past, many saw it as a fun topic that a few experts would deal with. It hadn’t yet arrived in people’s minds at the time,” Schnorr says. Now he is responsible for key parts of digital policy – from broadband expansion and government coordination to data strategy and G7 and EU coordination, Volker Wissing relies on Schnorr.
Germany as a pioneer
The current government is taking digitization much more seriously and creating the right framework conditions. “We have formulated clear goals and intermediate steps with our digital strategy.” This will enable the government to check exactly which goals need to be readjusted. In 2023, the ministry wants to draw up an interim balance sheet for this. Schnorr sees Germany as a pioneer in digitization – with one exception. “Where we have some catching up to do is in the digitization of public administration,” says the State Secretary.
In other areas, Germany is initiating many processes internationally. He said the German government has repeatedly reminded people that the EU must remain open to technology and should not rush regulations. “We have to have the right discussions first so that we have a solution that will bear. If we have the AI regulation and the Digital Services Act sensibly designed, then we will have achieved that.”
EU rules also apply to Twitter
Overall, Schnorr is satisfied with the EU’s role. With laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), he says, the EU has a leadership role. “The Americans scolded us at the time, and shortly thereafter, California adopted the GDPR almost word for word.” In the meantime, many US states have passed similar laws, he said.
With laws like the DSA, Germany and the EU also led the movement to combat hate speech on the Internet. The change of ownership at Twitter doesn’t change that either, he said. “All major online platforms must comply with the legal requirements in the EU, and this also applies to Twitter. If this is not done, there will be consequences.”
Schnorr does not use Twitter himself. He says you can’t explain important issues in just a few words, as you are quickly misunderstood. But he does follow the debates on the platform. Otherwise, he participates in most technical innovations and praises the smartphone as an irreplaceable device. However, he doesn’t use voice assistants, as “they gave me too many wrong answers to my questions.” Robert Laubach