The European Commission has released the results of the 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), which monitors Europe’s overall digital performance and tracks the progress of EU countries with respect to their digital competitiveness.
Countries that have set up ambitious targets in line with the EU Digital Single Market Strategy and combined them with adapted investment achieved a better performance in a relatively short period of time. This is one of the main conclusions of this year’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). However, the fact that the largest EU economies are not digital frontrunners indicates that the speed of digital transformation must accelerate, in order for the EU to stay competitive at world level.
DESI figures over the last 5 years show that targeted investment and robust digital policies can have a significant impact on the performance of individual countries. For example, this is the case for Spain, in the deployment of ultrafast broadband, Cyprus in broadband connectivity, Ireland for digitizing businesses and Latvia and Lithuania in digital public services.
Connectivity has improved, but remains insufficient to address fast-growing needs. DESI indicators show that the demand for fast and ultrafast broadband is on the rise, and is expected to further increase in the years in view of the growing sophistication of internet services and business needs. Ultrafast connectivity of at least 100 Mbps is available to 60% of households, and the number of broadband subscriptions is increasing. 20% of homes use ultrafast broadband, a number that is four times higher than in 2014.
The EU has agreed on the reform of the EU telecoms rules to meet Europeans’ growing connectivity needs and to boost investments. Sweden and Portugal have the highest take-up of ultrafast broadband, and Finland and Italy are the most advanced on the assignment of the 5G spectrum.
More than one third of Europeans in the active labour force do not have basic digital skills, even though most jobs require at least basic digital skills, and only 31% possess advanced internet user skills. At the same time, there is an increased demand for advanced digital skills across the economy, with employment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) specialists growing by 2 million over the last 5 years in the EU.
In the digital public services, where EU regulation is in place, there is a convergence trend among Member States for the period 2014-2019. 64% of internet users who submit forms to their public administration now use online channels (up from 57% in 2014), showing the convenience of online procedures over bureaucracy. In April 2018, the Commission adopted initiatives on the re-use of public sector information and on e-health, which will significantly improve cross-border online public services in the EU.
Also recently released, the Women in Digital Scoreboard, shows that EU countries who are digitally competitive are also leaders in female participation in the Digital Economy. The gender gap, however, persists at EU level in the areas of internet use, digital skills, and ICT specialist skills and employment with the largest inequalities in the latter: only 17% of ICT specialists are women, and they still earn 19% less than what men earn.
The annual Digital Economy and Society Index measures the progress of EU Member States towards a digital economy and society, mainly on the basis of Eurostat data. It helps EU Member States identify areas requiring priority investment and action. The DESI is also the key tool when it comes to analysing digital aspects in the European Semester.
The DESI includes a detailed analysis of national digital policies, providing an overview of progress and policy implementation by Member States. A more detailed Telecoms Chapter for each Member State is annexed to the reports. To make better comparisons between EU countries, the DESI also develops cross-border analyses in connectivity, skills, use of internet services, take-up of digital technology by businesses, digital public services, ICT research and development and innovation investment, and the use of Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme funds by Member States.
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