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EU ‘falling behind on Digital Decade targets’

Joakim Reiter Vodafone.jpg

The European Union needs to double its number of IT specialists and companies need to triple their use of cloud in order to meet targets.

A report from Deloitte, commissioned by Vodafone, says the 27 members of the EU are falling way behind their targets for its so-called Digital Decade.

Joakim Reiter (pictured), the Vodafone Group’s chief external affairs officer, said: “It’s critical for Europe that it closes the gaps on the Digital Decade targets highlighted in this report. Without ICT specialists and SMEs digitalised and fit for the future, it will be difficult for Europe to compete in global markets and to build the digital industrial solutions of tomorrow.”

The Digital Decade, which sets key targets on different digital areas until 2030, is the EU’s vision for Europe’s digital transformation and a critical element in Europe maintaining its global competitiveness in a rapidly changing world.

But, only 26% of all EU companies currently use cloud computing services, which is far short of the 75% target by 2030. This means from now until 2030, the EU needs to make up a gap of 49 percentage points.

The Deloitte report says that there is still a gap of 41 percentage points in connecting households to broadband networks.

“Plugging this gap could prove challenging to most, if not all member states, due to the high costs and operational challenges in deploying these networks in remote areas,” says the report.

Across the 27 members of EU, the number of ICT specialists currently stands at 8.43 million. “While this number has increased the most in Germany, Ireland and Hungary over the past year, across the EU as a whole this figure needs to more than double in order to meet the 20 million ICT specialists Digital Decade goal,” the report warns.

One of the saddest findings is that digital intensity of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) “has remained relatively flat over the past five years, with the average annual growth rate across the EU between 2016-2021 standing at just 2%”.

Deloitte says that “its digital intensity index … measures the availability of 12 different digital technologies including access to fast broadband (30Mbps or above) and ICT specialists”.

In some cases, “member states are now further behind on their goals than they were five years ago”. Poland was 14 percentage points closer to its 2030 target compared to 2019 and Italy 11 percentage points higher. But the Czech Republic “was 14 percentage points further behind [its] 2030 target in 2021 compared to 2019, Portugal nine percentage points. Germany five, Ireland three, and France two”.

Reiter said: “All countries must participate in strengthening and enhancing our continent’s digital capabilities. Simply put, progress in only some member states will not be enough to achieve Europe’s digital ambitions. While these gaps remain, our vision of a competitive, greener and more resilient Europe moves further away. Indeed, the European Parliament recently estimated that the cost of inaction will stand at €1.3 trillion by 2032.”