Digital Europe slows down

Nieuws | de redactie
24 mei 2016 | The Digital Progress Report of the EU shows that Europe is going forward, but seems to be slowing down at the same time. Fast broadband for instance mainly reaches urban areas, as only 28% of rural homes are connected to this technology. And how is your country performing?

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.

Who runs ahead?

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. Countries are grouped in clusters according to their score in DESI 2016 and to the growth they have registered between 2015 and 2016.

Running ahead countries are those that score above the EU average and whose score grew faster than that of the EU over the last year. These are countries that perform well and that have been developing at a pace that allows them to further distance themselves from the EU average. Countries in this cluster: Austria, Germany, Estonia, Malta, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Lagging ahead countries are those that score above the EU average but whose score grew slower than that of the EU over the last year. These countries perform well, but their development is now very slow and, as such, they are lagging in comparison to the progress of the EU as a whole. Countries in this cluster: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Catching up countries are those that score below the EU average but whose score grew faster than that of the EU over the last year. These countries are developing faster than the EU as a whole and are thus catching up with the EU average. Countries in this cluster: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia.

Falling behind countries are those that score below the EU average and whose development over the last year was slower than that of the EU as a whole. These countries are already less developed than the EU average, and by showing anemic growth they are distancing themselves further from the rest of the EU. Countries in this cluster: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Spotlight on EU-president Holland 

As a ‘running ahead country’ the Netherlands is a top performer, ranking this year 2nd out of the 28 EU Member States. Ranking 1st in terms of Connectivity, with fast broadband (at least 30 Mbps) available to practically all households (98%) and as many as 62% subscribers to it, the country ranks very high in Use of Internet (6th), Human Capital (6th), Integration of Digital Technology (5th), and Digital Public Services (4th).

The Netherlands’ digital economy and society could thrive even more, if the country further invests in human capital development to counter the shortage of ICT professionals, and if businesses were to use digital technologies even more to enhance their efficiency and productivity and to reach costumers and realise sales. Also spectrum harmonisation and mobile broadband take-up could be further improved to also expand the reach of internet services over this infrastructure.

To fully exploit the benefits of the digital economy, a high-skilled and adaptive workforce is key to the capacity to innovate and to competitiveness. Although skills mismatches in the Netherlands are relatively limited, the potential of the digital economy for growth and jobs is easily hampered by a shortage of ICT professionals and by reluctance to use the Internet.

IT-careers stagnating

Although 5% of all persons employed in the Netherlands were ICT professionals in 2014, In 2015, more than half (53%) of the companies in the Netherlands trying to recruit ICT specialists found it hard to fill their vacancies. By 2020 the lack of ICT specialists could be as high as 56.000. This is likely due to stagnating science and technology graduate numbers since 2006 as not enough young people, including women, are being attracted to careers in ICT.

While the Netherlands seeks to address this gap with a range of programmes, further efforts to reduce actual or potential digital skills shortages could help to meet growing demand for digitally skilled professionals and increase the competitiveness of the Dutch economy. The “Human Capital Agenda ICT” recently launched to link demand and supply of ICT professionals in the Dutch ‘Top sectors’ and to stimulate life-long learning should at least in part address the digital skills gap.

On the key issues all over the EU the report presents the next set of conclusions


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 2015 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.

Human Capital

-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.

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