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Index reveals the importance of digital progress in times of crisis

The Digital Economy and Society Index monitors Europe’s overall digital performance and tracks the progress of EU countries with respect to their digital competitiveness.

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The index demonstrates how essential digital technologies have become to the economy
The index demonstrates how essential digital technologies have become to the economy

Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands have emerged as leaders in overall digital performance across the EU, according to a new study.

 

The European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) monitors Europe’s overall digital performance and tracks the progress of EU countries with respect to their digital competitiveness.

 

Digital public services

 

DESI tracks the progress made by member states in five principal policy areas, namely connectivity, digital skills, internet usage by individuals, integration of digital technologies by businesses and digital public services.

 

Malta, Ireland and Estonia are ranked closely behind the leaders.

 

Meanwhile, the International Digital Economy and Society Index (I-DESI) shows that the best performing EU countries are also worldwide leaders.

 

However, the index reveals the largest EU economies are not digital frontrunners, and the EC cautions that the speed of digital transformation must accelerate for the EU to successfully deliver on the twin digital and green transformations.

 

Over the last five years, the index finds Ireland has made the most significant progress, followed by the Netherlands, Malta and Spain. These countries also perform well above the EU average as measured by the DESI score.

“The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated how crucial it is for citizens and businesses to be connected and to be able to interact with each other online”

This year’s DESI shows that there is progress in all member states and all key areas measured in the index.

 

This becomes all the more important in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, which has demonstrated how essential digital technologies have become, by allowing work to continue, monitoring the spread of the virus, or accelerating the search for cures and vaccines.

 

Furthermore, the DESI indicators relevant for the recovery underline that EU member states should step up their efforts to improve the coverage of very high capacity networks (VHCN), assign 5G spectrum to enable the commercial launch of 5G services, improve citizens’ digital skills and further digitise businesses and the public sector.

 

“The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated how crucial it is for citizens and businesses to be connected and to be able to interact with each other online,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president of the European Commission (EC).

“We will continue to work with member states to identify areas where more investment is needed so that all Europeans can benefit from digital services and innovations.”

 

The main findings in five digital areas are:

 

Connectivity: has improved but more needs to be done to address fast-growing needs. Member states are working on the transposition of new EU rules adopted in 2018 into national legislation, with a view to fostering investment in VHCN, both fixed and mobile. More than three quarters (78 per cent) of households had a fixed broadband subscription in 2019, up from 70 per cent five years ago, and 4G networks cover almost the entire European population.

 

Digital skills: more progress is needed, especially since the coronavirus crisis has shown that adequate digital skills are crucial for citizens to be able to access information and services. A large part of the EU population (42 per cent), still lacks at least basic digital skills.

 

Internet use: although the pandemic has seen a sharp increase in use, the trend was already present before the crisis, with 85 per cent of people using the internet at least once a week (up from 75 per cent in 2014).

 

Enterprises: these are becoming more and more digitised with large companies taking the lead. Two fifths (38.5 per cent) of large companies already rely on advanced cloud services and 32.7 per cent reported that they use big data analytics.

 

Digital public services: there is an increasing trend towards their use in the areas of eGovernment and eHealth, which allows for more efficiency and savings for governments and businesses, improved transparency, and the greater participation of citizens in political life. Two thirds (67 per cent) of internet users who submitted forms to their public administration in 2019 now use online channels, up from 57 per cent in 2014.

 

As the pandemic has had a significant impact on each of the five dimensions tracked by DESI, it notes the 2020 findings should be read in conjunction with the numerous measures taken by the EC and member states to manage the crisis and support the recovery.

 

Member states took action to minimise contagion and to support healthcare systems, such as by introducing applications and platforms to facilitate telemedicine and coordinate healthcare resources.

 

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