European “digital decade”: strengthening the EU-wide digital transformation

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European Commission has published the second report on the State of the Digital Decade, providing a comprehensive overview of the progress towards achieving the digital objectives and targets set for 2030. The 2024-report is accompanied by an analysis of the EU member states’ “digital decade strategic roadmaps” detailing the planned national measures, actions and funding to contribute to the EU’s digital transformation.  

Background
The European Digital Decade policy program (DDPP), i.e. so-called “the Path to the Digital Decade” suggested in September 2021, includes concrete targets and objectives for 2030, which guides Europe’s digital transformation. The targets include four main directions:
a) skills: the idea is to prepare about 20 million ICT specialists and provide basic digital skills to about 80 percent of the EU population);
b) digital transformation in businesses: this direction includes “digital teaching” for about 75 percent of EU companies using Cloud, AI and/or Big Data; there are additionally double efforts for scale-ups and financing for the EU Unicorns, as well as providing “basic levels of digital intensity” for about 90 percent of SMEs in the member states;
c) secure and sustainable digital infrastructures: the direction would cover connectivity with “gigabit for everyone”, cutting-edge semiconductors and double EU’s share in global production, data-edge and cloud (with 10,000 climate-neutral highly secure edge nodes), and exploring first computers with quantum acceleration;
d) digitalisation of public services, i.e. turning online almost all key public services in the member states, including all citizens having access to e-health and to medical records online; besides, the “digital identity” will cover all EU citizens have access to digital IDs.
Source: https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digital-age/europes-digital-decade-digital-targets-2030_en

The “digital path” was complemented in December 2022, by the adoption of the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles, which formulated the EU-wide directions in digital transformation, followed by the first State of the Digital Decade report published in September 2023.

Present report includes comprehensive package of working documents, reports and studies presenting the progress in the different DDPP’s dimensions. The Commission’s Joint Research Centre, JRC also contributed to the monitoring procedures, providing the methodology to aggregate national digital targets at the EU-wide level and mapping the amount of the EU funding investments to activate digital transition.
The 2024-report also identified needs for additional investments, both at EU and national levels, in particular in the areas of digital skills, high-quality connectivity, uptake of artificial intelligence, AI and data analytics by enterprises, semiconductor production and start-ups.
Presently, the Commission is taking significant action to advance on the targets and objectives of the Digital Decade. With the proposal and adoption of key legislations, it has actively promoted a safer online space for European citizens and fostered consumer protection, while safeguarding the innovation potential of European companies. Significant EU funding has also been made available to foster the digital transformation, in particular through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (€150 billion), DIGITAL Europe (€7.9 billion), and Connecting Europe Facility 2 Digital (€1.7 billion).
Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_24_3602

Digital skills and public services
Putting people at the center of the digital transformation in the states and economies is at the core of the Digital Decade and the first principle of the Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles.
Presently, the digital skills targets set by the Digital Decade are still far from being achieved, with only 55.6% of the EU population having at least basic digital skills. According to the current trend, the number of ICT specialists in the EU will be around 12 million in 2030, with a persisting gender imbalance.
To reach the targets, the member states should follow a multi-faceted approach to foster digital skills at all levels of education, and incentivize young people, particularly girls, to take interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
The states are progressing towards the target of making all key public services and electronic health records accessible to citizens and businesses online, as well as providing them with a secure electronic identification (eID). Despite uneven take-up among the EU states, eID is currently available to 93% of the EU population and the EU Digital Identity Wallet is expected to incentivize its use; however, it is acknowledge in the report that achieving 100 percent of digital public services for citizens and business by 2030 remains challenging.
Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_24_3602

Digital infrastructure and businesses
Adopting and developing innovative technologies is crucial for Europe’s competitiveness, particularly in the current geopolitical landscape and due to increasing cybersecurity threats, demanding enhanced resilience and robust security measures. The report highlights that the EU is far from achieving the connectivity targets set by the DDPP: fiber networks, critical for delivering gigabit connectivity and enabling the take-up of cutting-edge technologies such as AI, cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT), only reach 64% of households. High-quality 5G networks today only reach 50% of the EU’s territory and their performance is still insufficient to deliver advanced 5G services. To address these challenges, the EU states and the Commission should work together to foster a truly functional Digital Single Market.
In 2023, the uptake of AI, cloud and/or big data by European companies was also well below the Digital Decade target of 75%. However, under current trends, only 64% of businesses will use cloud, 50% big data and only 17% AI by 2030.
To achieve the digitalisation of the business sector, it is paramount to incentivize the take-up of innovative digital tools by SMEs, in particular cloud and AI, as well as mobilise further private investments in high-growth startups. This is crucial to maintain Europe’s competitiveness with regards to data-driven innovation, efficiency, and growth.
Another major challenge faced in the EU’s digital transformation remains the limited spread of digital technologies beyond large cities. To tackle this digital divide, it is fundamental to foster cooperation between European actors at cross-border and local level, for example through Multi-Country Projects, European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) and European Digital Infrastructure Consortia (EDICs). A series of successes have been achieved since last year in this regard, with three EDICs established by the end of May 2024.
More on EDICs in: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/edic

Commission’s opinion, citations:
= “Today’s report clearly shows that we are not on track to reach our targets on the digital transformation in Europe. But it also indicates a clear way forward: we need additional investments in digital skills, high-quality connectivity, and uptake of Artificial Intelligence. We need to incentivize the use of digital tools. We need many more people to get digital skills – both basic and expert level – to leverage our strengths. And we need to foster cooperation and better integrate our single market to really enable the digital transformation across Europe”.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age

= “We are building a more competitive Europe, which leverages its competitive edge and asserts itself in the global technology race. Today’s State of the Digital Decade report clearly identifies the areas where our collective action has to accelerate to achieve this result and meet the Digital Decade targets by 2030. Investments, cross border cooperation, completing the Digital Single market, boosting take up of key technologies such as AI: this is the recipe of success that is at the essence of the recommendations that we issue today to member states”.
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market
Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_24_3602

The EU member states will now have to review and adjust their national roadmaps to align with the Digital Decade Policy Program goals and directions before 2 December 2024. As set out it the DDPP, the Commission will monitor and assess the implementation of these recommendations and prepare the achievements in the next, 2025-State of the Digital Decade report.

More information in the following Commission’s websites: = 2024 State of the Digital Decade report; = Factpage on the State of the Digital Decade; = Factpages on the Digital Decade country reports; = Eurobarometer on the State of the Digital Decade 2024; = Europe’s Digital Decade; = Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles.

 

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