Internet applications didn’t exist yet

Hans Martin Adler, a programmer from the early days, reminisces about the beginnings of digitalization and the pre-internet era.

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The entire world in a state of emergency

Extraordinary events such as natural disasters – and a virus pandemic – remind us that no one is immune to crises. Some crises arise suddenly and unexpectedly, while others, such as climate change, develop over time. We humans have always sought to prepare for possible emergencies and to make life “crisis proof”. Are we now, in the digital age, better prepared for such events than generations before us were?

Always informed

50 years ago, it was already possible to read a newspaper in the morning, watch TV news in the evening, and listen to the radio during the rest of the day. But there was no internet. Today, the internet gives us access to a vast range of news sources 24/7. Breaking news spreads like wildfire on social media and we have apps that warn us immediately of any disaster.

However, all kinds of storytellers are also active online, peddling their fairy­tales, distorting facts, and dishing up brazen lies – sometimes so skillfully that their deception becomes difficult to spot.

School at the kitchen table

50 years ago, month-long school closures would have meant month-long breaks in learning for most children. Today, teachers can teach and tutor their students online. Parents helping their children with their schoolwork can bone up online for that if they need to. And they can do so free of any constraints of place or time – and in tune with their own individual schedules and pace.

In online-schooling settings, children with poor educational opportunities, as a result of their social environ­ments or back­grounds, can be at risk of falling even further behind. This is because children, to succeed in online learning, need the right equip­ment, a quiet, learning-con­du­cive environ­ment at home, and parents who can provide the necessary tutoring.

Still up and running

Just a click away

50 years ago, when people needed new shoes, they had to go to a shoe store. And if the shoe store was closed, they couldn’t get any new shoes. Nowadays, virtually all products – including clothing, furniture, and food – can easily be ordered online for home delivery. Internet business has been booming, and the current crisis has only intensified this trend.

But what would happen if a natural disaster made our roads impassable? We can do without a pair of new shoes or even toilet paper, but we can survive only four days without water and only three weeks without food. Many people now see the idea of stockpiling emergency supplies as outdated. But a lack of supplies can cost lives in an emergency.

Shop local

People who like to have bustling downtown areas to stroll through should start thinking more carefully about what companies they order from online. This is something that consumers are becoming more aware of. In a survey conducted in Germany by the Bitkom digital association in 2020, three-quarters of all respondents indicated that, when shopping online, they are now increasingly seeking to support retailers located within their own regions.

Organizing help

When lakes and rivers flood, and entire communities are cut off from the outside world, responders need to act fast. During the major floods of 2021 in central Europe, volunteer helpers turned out in droves and worked tirelessly. They used social networks to organize themselves and provided support incredibly fast.

In a crisis, people need reliable information. Unfortunately, even in such extreme situations, some people try to mislead helpers by deliberately providing false information online.

Slowing climate change

Play a little

Sports and recreation are good for us, and they can help calm our fears and anxieties – both in general and during a crisis. But what happens when sports and recreational facilities, and restaurants and movie theaters, are all closed? 50 years ago, the only option then available might have been a good book – or a very limited selection of TV channels. Today, streaming services offer an endless variety of enter­tainment, and e-readers can hold entire libraries of books. Thanks to online fitness trainers, your living room can double as a gym. You can also go online to visit museums and to watch theater performances and concerts.

Admittedly, digitalization doesn’t offer adequate solutions to help the events sector through a crisis – companies, artists, sports profes­sion­als, and all the other people who contribute to the success of events. Nor does watching a concert at home on TV compare with im­mers­ing yourself in the atmosphere at a concert hall, surrounded by hundreds of other people.

MagentaMusik 360

Closeness in spite of distance

50 years ago, when you wanted to talk to friends and loved ones who happened to be someplace else, you called them on the phone. If you wanted to see them, you had to go to where they were. Today, video­confe­ren­cing apps on our smartphones and other devices keep us in constant visual touch with family and friends – even across large distances. We can cultivate friendships across entire continents, even with people we have never met in person. And when people get separated by wars or natural disasters, smartphones give them a way – often, the only way – to stay connected. Not surpris­ingly, people who are fleeing from trouble guard their smartphones as their most prized possessions.

There are so many kinds of personal closeness that the internet cannot replace. Online, you can’t hug people, share the euphoria at a concert, move on a crowded dance floor, cuddle with someone during a movie, comfort an anxious person, dry someone’s tears, or hold a dying person’s hand ...

We at Deutsche Telekom want everyone to be able to #TAKEPART, even in a crisis – that is our promise and that is what we are committed to.

Stable network during the pandemic

We now work from home, teach children remotely, and have stream­ing marathons. As people do more and more online, we need a network that can reliably handle all of this data. Over the past few years, we have invested billions in our network expansion, and we continue to expand and upgrade our network. These investments have paid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping our networks running reliably despite high levels of usage. And our strategy of “building broadband for millions instead of ultra-broadband for a few” has paid off as well. In Germany, it has helped enable more than 80 percent of our population to have access to high-speed internet in 2021 during the pandemic.

Ready at all times

We're there for our employees

Cut off from the outside world

Having network access can be critically important during a crisis. In Germany alone, some 6 000 Deutsche Telekom service technicians have continued to make service calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. To protect them against infection, we impose strict safety precautions, including social distancing of at least 1.5 meters, and wearing of gloves, masks, protective glasses, and overshoes. When the risk factors are especially high, these technicians can also get full-body coveralls.

When the COVID-10 pandemic start­ed in 2020, we provided over 80 000 employees in Germany and 180 000 around the world with solutions for working from home – all within just a few days. But not all jobs can be car­ried out from home. Thanks to our comprehensive hygiene concepts, our service technicians are well protected – even in the midst of the pandemic – as they connect services, lay cables, and erect cell towers. Since early June 2021, we have been offering our staff at over 80 sites throughout Germany the opportunity to get va­ccinated against the coronavirus. In Russia, too, employees have been able to get vaccinated at special clinics, while staff in Romania were given a day off to get their COVID-19 jabs.

In emergency situations, our Group Situation Center’s hotline is available 24/7 to answer any questions our employees in Germany might have. The Situation Center addresses all security-relevant incidents, and it coor­di­nates and monitors measures in response to acute threats. The national companies worl­dwide maintain similar points of contact for their staff.

Staying secure online

Targeting home offices

Protecting the climate protects against crises

Tim Höttges, Deutsche Telekom CEO “Whether individuals or companies, we all have a responsibility toward our environ­ment. We at Deutsche Telekom have there­fore made our climate goals even tougher.” Tim Höttges, Deutsche Telekom CEO

For over 50 years now, we have known that human-caused greenhouse emis­sions can threaten the world’s climate. Although news media have given this issue a great deal of atten­tion, a great many people are still doing – nothing. And yet each of us can help protect the climate. For example, we can commu­ni­cate online to organize lending and borrowing of household tools, such as power drills and lawn mowers. When people lend and borrow products, instead of owning them, fewer products need to be produced. That con­serves valuable raw materials and reduces CO₂ emis­sions from production and transport.

On the other hand, the internet also uses energy. According to a study by a think tank called “The Shift Project” from 2019, if it were a country, it would rank sixth internationally in terms of energy consumption. Consequently, network technology needs to be ener­gy efficient, and it needs to be pow­ered by climate-neutral renewable energies. We at Deutsche Telekom have set clear goals in this area. Al­ready, our customers are surfing on Deutsche Telekom’s green network – and that applies across the entire Group.

Innovative solutions and non-bureaucratic support in times of crisis

As we see it, in times of crisis our responsibility goes beyond just keeping our network stable and secure. We need to offer a wide range of resources, on both small and large scales. Here are a few selected examples:

© divirodApp to warn against floods

Help following natural disasters

Deutsche Telekom in Germany – flooding in July 2021
T-Mobile US – hurricane Ida in August 2021
T-Mobile Czech Republic – tornado in June 2021
Makedonski Telekom – forest fires in August 2021

Help during the COVID-19 pandemic

Deutsche Telekom in Germany
T-Mobile Czech Republic
T-Systems Iberia
OTE Group
Hrvatski Telekom
T-Systems Netherlands
Magenta Telekom
Crnogorski Telekom
T-Mobile US
Magyar Telekom
T-Mobile Polska
Slovak Telekom

App to warn against floods

Extreme weather is becoming increasingly common, with serious consequences for people and the environment. It causes flooding, storms, and rising sea levels. Data and information are required to issue flood warnings in good time. Conventional methods for measuring water levels are often manual and can be inaccurate. They are also costly, require a great deal of maintenance, are susceptible to environ­men­tal influences, and produce measurements that are unreliable. In collaboration with divirod, Deutsche Telekom offers a digital solution for evaluating water-related data This fully automated solution monitors water levels in reservoirs and rivers. It also issues warnings in the event of high tides or accumulations of snow and ice on roofs and roads. It provides the responsible authorities with real-time data around the clock.

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