The modernization of the German register landscape follows the principle of federal-decentralized data management. However, there is currently no systematic consolidation of registers of the same type. This threatens to result in additional work, time delays and higher costs during implementation – although more centralized approaches can also be implemented in compliance with data protection requirements.

Short & concise

  • Many types of registers exist in multiple forms, as they are the responsibility of the federal states and local authorities.
  • In total, there are more than a quarter of a million registers in Germany.
  • Without a more detailed examination of consolidation potential, there is a risk of additional costs due to the isolated digitization of registers of a similar type.

How can companies and citizens avoid having to repeatedly enter the same information into empty forms when using administrative services? And how can the exchange of data between authorities be improved? Register modernization provides an answer to both questions. As a key project of administrative digitization, it promises decisive added value for public authority communication. While the Register Modernization Act (RegMoG) promulgated on April 6, 2021, has laid an important foundation, a number of unanswered questions remain for implementation.

Over a quarter of a million registers kept

In addition to the fundamental challenges and solution approaches regarding the digitization of registers, the sheer volume of registers alone is often overlooked. The register landscape in Germany consists of more than 375 types of registers located at different administrative levels. The RegMoG explicitly names 51 registers, such as the population register and the register of craftsmen, for which the introduction of an identification number will be mandatory. Of these 51 registers, 18 registers have been classified as “top registers”.

This may sound manageable and promote an important focus on the essentials. But it also obscures the true dimension of the mammoth project to raise the register landscape to a forward-looking, digitally connectable level. In addition to centrally managed federal registers, there are also state registers and municipal registers. Accordingly, individual types of registers are also available in 16-fold or thousand-fold versions. In total, there are more than a quarter of a million registers in Germany.

“In principle, we are on the right track with the modernization of the registers. Basic components are being developed and standards defined. Nevertheless, delays and unnecessarily high costs are already foreseeable in the implementation – because there is neither a consistent concept nor a clear control for the consolidation of similar registers,” says Janos Standt, Head of Public Sector at mgm. “The exclusive focus on prioritized registers postpones the modernization of the majority of registers to the future in an unacceptable way. Instead, the focus should be on having registries managed at the right administrative level and delegating management in a meaningful way where appropriate.”

Do we need some kind of EfA principle for registries?

Currently, the mantra of federal-decentralized data storage applies to the digitization of registers. The agencies keeping the registers are responsible for implementation. In the worst case, this results in numerous parallel digitization and modernization projects with very similar goals, and too many connection projects to central components. In some cases, a certain degree of register consolidation is already taking place. For example, not every single registry office has to keep its own register of civil status. According to Section 67 of the German Civil Status Act (PStG), the federal states are allowed to set up central registers to record register entries from connected civil status offices.

However, the example of the civil status register also gives an idea of how preconditional consolidation and greater centralization can be in practice. In many cases, it is not enough to have a sophisticated technical implementation concept that is both data protection-compliant and has an appropriate level of security. In many cases, the legal foundations must also first be created to make such bundling feasible at all.

“We are currently in a situation in which register consolidation is occurring only fragmentarily, sporadically and rather randomly,” Standt sums up. “But this will slow down modernization in the medium term. We should therefore think about where consolidation makes sense – and before a quarter of a million managed registers are modernized in isolation from each other or connected to central infrastructures.”

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