Today the European Commission published the results of the 2016 edition of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). The findings show that Member States have made progress in areas such as connectivity and digital skills, as well as in public services, since the publication of the Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy last year.
While highlighting improvements, the results released today also show that the pace of progress is slowing down. Action is needed, both at the EU and national levels, to remove the obstacles which prevent EU Member States from fully benefitting from digital opportunities.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “More and more people, businesses and public services are going digital. But too many of them still face problems such as a lack of high-speed internet coverage or cross-border e-government, as well as difficulties in shopping and selling across borders. We need to fix this. This is what our Digital Single Market Strategy aims to do. The first proposals under the Strategy will boost e-commerce and connectivity. All our proposals will be on the table this year and I encourage EU Member States to lose no time in supporting them. These proposals will help them boost their digital performance and economies”.
“The EU makes progress, but too slowly,” said Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society. He remarked: “There is no room for complacency. Action is needed if we want to catch up with Japan, the USA and South Korea. Based on today’s Index, we will come forward in May with concrete recommendations for EU Member States to improve their national performances. With this, combined with our work to create a Digital Single Market, I am sure that the EU as a whole and its Member States will do much better in the coming years”.
Main findings of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI)
- The EU is progressing, but slowly: The EU as a whole attains a score of 0.52 out of 1, an improvement from 0.5 last year. All EU countries but Sweden have improved their score.
- Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland continue to lead the DESI rankings.
- The Netherlands, Estonia, Germany, Malta, Austria and Portugal are the fastest growing countries and they are running ahead.
- Action needed to reach the global top: For the first time, the Commission is also comparing the EU to some of the most digitalised countries in the world (Japan, the USA and South Korea). While the full report on a new international Index on digital performances will be available mid-March 2016, preliminary results show that top EU countries are also top worldwide digital performers. However the EU as a whole needs to significantly improve in order to lead on the global stage. More details can be found in this factsheet.
- Better connectivity, but insufficient in the long-term: 71% of European homes can access high-speed broadband (at least 30 Mbps) compared to 62% last year. The EU is on the right track to be totally covered by 2020. The number of mobile broadband subscriptions is rapidly increasing, from 64 subscriptions per each 100 Europeans in 2014 to 75 today. The EU needs to be ready to meet future demand and to provide the next generation of communication networks (5G). This is why the Commission will present a review of EU telecoms rules to address technological and market challenges by the end of the year.
- Digital skills to be improved: While the number of science, technology and mathematics (STEM) graduates has slightly increased in the EU, almost half of Europeans (45%) don’t have basic digital skills (using a mailbox, editing tools or installing new devices). The Commission will address digital skills and training as part of the upcoming EU Skills Agenda later this year.
- e-Commerce, a missed opportunity for smaller businesses: 65% of European internet users shop online, but only 16% of SMEs sell online – and less than half of those sell online across borders (7.5%). To address this issue, the Commission presented proposals on digital contracts in December (press release) to protect consumers better who shop online and help businesses expand their online sales. The Commission will come with a legislative package in May to further boost e-commerce. It will include measures to address unjustified geo-blocking, to improve the transparency of cross-border parcel markets and to enforce EU consumer rules across borders better.
- More public services online, but they are under-used: Indicators show that public administrations are providing a wider range of services online (allowing people to use the internet to inform about a new residence, the birth of a child and other important events). However, the number of internet users interacting with their administration online is not increasing (32%).