The European Commission has just released a report on digital progress in the EU. The analysis shows that Member States are at very different stages in the development of the digital economy; some, for example, such as the Nordic countries, are among the most advanced in the world, whilst other still have a lot of catching up to do.
Europe’s Digital Progress Report (EDPR) presents a set of horizontal chapters analysing developments in five different aspects (connectivity, digital skills, use of Internet, Integration of Digital Technology by businesses, Digital Public Services) and of a set of country reports with country specific data.
The aim of this monitoring report is to achieve a real Digital Union by monitoring the implementation of digital reforms in Member States grasp the opportunities available to citizens and businesses of the Digital Single Market.
The main achievements in EU’s digital performance in the past year include:
- more fast and mobile internet,
- public administrations are providing a wider range of services online,
- more people buying online.
Broadband data shows that:
- 22% of European homes subscribe to fast broadband access of at least 30 Mbps, more than seven times higher than in 2010. Belgium, the Netherlands and Malta are the leaders in Europe in fast broadband take-up, while Croatia, Greece, Italy and Cyprus are at the bottom of the list.
- Coverage of fast broadband technologies (Next Generation Access – NGA) reached 71% of homes. However it mainly reaches urban areas, as only 28% of rural homes have fast broadband. Malta, Belgium, The Netherlands and Lithuania are the best with at least 95% coverage, while Greece, Italy and France are below 50%.
- Only 8% of European homes subscribe to ultrafast broadband (at least 100Mbps), as opposed to the target of 50% by 2020. Romania, Sweden and Latvia are the most advanced in ultrafast broadband adoption.
- While price remain the most important factor for 79% of customres subscribing to communications services, quality of service has become almost as important for them – for 70% as analysed in the eCommunications report.
- Mobile internet access increased significantly with 69% of households now having at least one member with a mobile internet access, a +21 points increase over 2014.
- The majority of people in the EU (76%) now use the internet regularly and only 16% have never gone online. In some countries, like Bulgaria and Romania, as much as half of the population are still digitally excluded.
- 45% of people in the EU do not have basic digital skills. ICT professional skills are also lacking in many countries, employment of ICT professionals has grown by over 4% a year over the past decade while ICT graduate numbers have fallen by 40%.
Use of Internet by citizens and business
- The progress in online sales by European companies is slow. 16.7% of them sell online, an increase of only 3.5 percentage points over five years. Large companies are more active with 38% of them selling online, a gain of 7% points over the last five years. This indicates that the gap between SMEs and large companies’ use of eCommerce is increasing.
- Only 7.5% of European SMEs sell online to other Member states, an increase of 1 percentage point since 2013. At the same time 23% of large enterprises do so.
- The percentage of European citizens ordering goods and services online has gradually increased to 53% (up 13 percentage points over the last five years), but only 16% engage in cross-border eCommerce.
- Amongst people who did not buy anything online within the last year, most said that they preferred to shop in person. The next most common reasons given were payment security concerns (27%) and trust concerns about receiving or returning goods, complaint/redress concerns (19%). 18% reported a lack of the necessary skills.
- EU digital citizens are not always able to protect themselves, their data and their privacy online. 35% of European internet users don’t’ know cookies can be used to trace people’s online movements, although cookies are largely used by almost all web-services for different purposes (i.e. targeted advertising or data collection). Additionally, security concerns continue to keep 1 out of 5 internet users away from online transactions (e-commerce and e-banking).
Digital Public Services
- eGovernment services are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The challenge now is to bring the 52% of citizens who still prefer an offline interaction with public authorities to the digital word.
- The country reports show some good practices in different Member States: eID systems in Italy and Hungary; Open data portals in Austria; collaborative eGovernment in Belgium and Romania and cloud solutions for eGovernment in Slovakia.
ICT sector, R&D and Horizon 2020
- In its first two years of implementation, Horizon 2020 has allocated € 2.4 billion of Union funding to 850 projects in the field of ICT, attracting 3,312 organisations.
- Future Networks and Internet and the Cognitive systems and Robotics are the research areas that attract the highest number of participants and funding.
- In H2020 the enterprise sector shows an increased participation compared to FP7, representing 42% of participations and 38% of budget, with 21% of budget going to SMEs.
- In absolute terms, Germany and the United Kingdom are the biggest recipient of EU funding, but Greece and Slovenia are the countries with the highest funding in relation to the size of their ICT sector.
Europe’s Digital Progress Report (EDPR) consists of:
- A set of “horizontal chapters”, analysing developments across countries in the five dimensions of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) but more in-depth and through more indicators, extending the analysis to progress in R&D in ICT.
- A set of country reports. These reports combine the quantitative evidence from (DESI) with country-specific policy insights, allowing to keep track of the progress made in terms of digitalisation by each Member State and providing an important feedback loop for policy-making at EU level. Annexed to the report there are 28 country factsheets regarding telecoms.
- For the first time the Commission compares Europe’s performance with its international competitors in I-DESI report. International data are scarce but sufficient to show that the top EU performers (Sweden, Denmark, and Finland) are also leading countries in the global stage, followed by Korea and the United States.