The EU’s digital development, as set out in the 2021 Digital Decade Policy Program (DDPP), still needs a boost on several fronts. This is evident from the recently published progress report State of the Digital Decade.
The interim report shows the progress of the goals set out in the EU’s DDPP 10-year plan in 2021. It looked at progress with regard to digital skills, digital infrastructure and the digital transition of businesses, including the use of AI. It also looked at how this progress affects a secure and sustainable digital transition.
The report shows that despite progress being made, there is still work to be done in several areas. By 2030, 55 percent of rural areas are still not covered by modern fixed and mobile networks and 9 percent lack a fixed Internet connection.
According to the report, member states must therefore put an additional €200 billion into digital infrastructure development to meet the gigabit and 5G targets by 2023.
Furthermore, member states should invest more in developing internal chip designs and chip manufacturing capabilities. This will allow the EU to gain faster independence from chip manufacturers in other continents, as stipulated in the European Chips Act.
In the area of digital business transition, the interim report finds that the targets for all businesses in the EU, large and specifically SMEs, are not yet on track to be met.
By 2030 only 66 percent of all EU companies use cloud services, 34 percent big data and 20 percent AI applications. Only 69 percent of SMEs have a basic form of digital working in the same year. In this regard, there are discrepancies between member states, however.
EU members need to create more awareness around digital transition for companies, such as encouraging the use of the European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs). Also, compared to other countries in the world, the number of European tech unicorns should ideally go up.
Other services and areas
For the digitization of public services, the EU survey sees positive signs. However, member states need to invest more in improving cross-border services and the (digital) performance of public services.
Ensuring residents have sufficient digital skills is also not something the EU is excelling at. By 2030, only 59 percent of all EU residents are set to posess basic digital skills. Recruitment of the 20 million ICT specialists needed is also lagging behind.
The report calls for a number of follow-up steps, including recommendations and measures for those areas where progress is insufficient. Member states should plan these follow-up steps into their own digital development plans and make them public by Oct. 9, 2023.
The European Commission will also come up with follow-up steps to achieve the EU’s digital goals.