Desi 2021, the latest edition of the index of the economy and digital society, shows overall progress in the digital transition in Europe. But for the real pandemic data, wait for 2022 edition.

The Digital Economy and Society Index (Desi) is an index that annually summarises Europe’s digital performance indicators and tracks the progress of EU countries since 2014.

The European Commission monitors the digital progress of Member States through annual reports. The Desi 2021 report, which relates to 2020, in fact presents the state of the digital economy and society in the first year of the pandemic.

This is why Desi 2021 has been adapted to reflect the two main policy initiatives aimed at impacting digital transformation in the EU in the coming years: Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and Digital De

It was once called Recovery Fund With a budget of €723.8 billion, the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), adopted in February 2021, is the largest program within the Next Generation EU.

Desi 2021 tracks progress in EU Member States in digital competitiveness in the areas of human capital, broadband connectivity, business integration of digital technologies and digital public services.

The national reports of Desi 2021 mostly present data from the first or second quarter of 2020, providing some information on key developments in the economy and digital society during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Covid-19 effect on the use and provision of digital services and the results of policies implemented since then are not captured in the data and will be more visible in 2022 edition.

Italy is twenty-sixth in the overall ranking, with a total score of 45.5 points, below the European average of 50.7 points and far from the first European country, Denmark, with 70 points.

In terms of digital technology integration, our country is tenth in the ranking with 41.4 points, above the European average of 37.6. On the other hand, there is 25th for human capital, with 35.1 points against 47.1 in the European average, 23rd for connectivity, 42.4 points against 50.2 in the EU average, and 18th in digital public services, 63.2 points against 68.1

Download the Italian section of the Desi 2021 report

Digital: all forward, but with juicio

All EU Member States have made progress in the area of digitisation, but the overall picture between Member States is mixed and, despite some convergence, the gap between EU leaders and those with the lowest Desi scores remains wide.

Despite these improvements, all Member States will have to make concerted efforts to achieve the 2030 targets set in the Digital Decade of Europe.

Desi 2021 has been adapted to reflect the main policy initiatives, including 2030 Digital Compass: the European Way for the Digital Decade, which defines Europe’s ambition for digital change and outlines a vision for digital transformation and objectives

The Path to the Digital Decade, a political programme presented in September 2021, sets out a new form of governance with Member States, through an annual cooperation mechanism between the EU institutions and Member States to ensure that they achieve their ambitions together.

The Path to Digital Decade assigns Desi the monitoring of Digital Decade targets and for this reason Desi indicators are now structured around the four cardinal points of Digital Compass.

Under the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism (RRF), EU Member States have committed to spending at least 20% of their national funding on digital recovery and resilience, and so far Member States are reaching or exceeding this target.

Desi national reports incorporate a summary of digital investment and reforms into recovery and resilience plans for the 22 plans already adopted by the Council.

Desi 2021, results: ICT specialists grow

As regards digital skills, 56% of people in the EU have at least basic digital skills.

The data show a slight increase in ICT specialists in employment: in 2020, the EU had 8.4 million ICT specialists compared to 7.8 million in the previous year.

As 55% of companies reported difficulties in recruiting ICT specialists in 2020, this lack of employees with advanced digital skills is also a factor contributing to the slower digital transformation of businesses in many Member States.

Data indicate a need to increase the supply and training opportunities to meet the objectives of the digital decade for skills (80% of the population has basic digital skills and 20 million ICT specialists).

The Commission has also published the Digital Women’s Scoreboard, which confirms that there is still a substantial gender gap in specialised digital skills. Only 19% of ICT specialists and about one third of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are women.

Connectivity data shows an improvement in very high capacity networks (VHCN), in particular that is available in 59% of households in the EU, compared to 50% a year ago, but still far from the universal coverage of the Gigabit network (the digital decade target for

Rural VHCN coverage increased from 22% in 2019 to 28% in 2020. In addition, 25 Member States allocated a 5G spectrum compared to 16 in a year ago. 5G was launched commercially in 13 Member States, mainly covering urban areas.

The Commission has also published today studies on mobile and fixed broadband prices in Europe 2020, broadband coverage until June 2020 and national broadband plans. It should be noted that 11.1% of digital investments in the Relaunch and Resilience Plans adopted by the Council (about 13 billion euros out of a total of 117 billion euros), is dedicated to connectivity.

The Cloud Jump

As regards the integration of digital technologies, there has been a strong increase in the use of cloud technologies in Europe (from 16% of companies in 2018 to 26% in 2020).

Large companies continue to be at the forefront of digital technology use: e.g., using electronic information sharing through business resource planning (ERP) and cloud software much more frequently than SMEs (80% and 35% for ERP and 48% vs. 25% respectively).

However, only a fraction of companies use advanced digital technologies (14% big data, 25% artificial intelligence and 26% cloud).

These data indicate that the current state of digital technology adoption is far from the targets of Digital Decade: the EU’s ambition for 2030 is that 90% of SMEs have at least a basic digital intensity level compared to the basic level of 60% in 2020, and that

At present only a fraction of companies use Big Data even in some of the most performing countries, compared to the 75% target. It is important to stress that around 15% of digital investment in Council recovery and resilience plans (almost €18 billion out of a total of €117 billion) is dedicated to digital capabilities and digital research and development.

To complete the data of the DESI report there is a study that has recorded the contribution of the ICT to the actions of environmental sustainability of the enterprises of the EU, that reveals that 66% of the companies interviewed has asserted to use solutions ICT to reduce own imprint

An important improvement in e-government services is not yet seen in digital public services data. During the first year of the pandemic, several Member States have created or improved digital platforms to provide more online services. 37% of digital investment in the Relaunch and Resilience Plans adopted by the Council (about €43 billion out of a total of €117 billion), is dedicated to digital public services, and significant improvements are expected in the coming years. The Commission has also made available the eGovernment Benchmark 2021, which interviews citizens from 36 European countries on their use of digital government services.

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