European Union strives for digital transformation
July 18, 2024

European Union strives for digital transformation

With the 2030 target in mind

The European Commission has released its second comprehensive report on the State of the Digital Decade, assessing the progress towards achieving the ambitious digital objectives set for 2030 under the Digital Decade Policy Programme (DDPP).

This year’s report includes a detailed analysis of the national Digital Decade strategic roadmaps presented by EU member states, outlining their planned measures, actions, and funding to contribute to the European Union’s (EU) digital transformation.

Despite concerted efforts, the Commission’s analysis reveals significant gaps between current achievements and the EU’s lofty ambitions. Key areas requiring substantial improvement include digital skills development, high-quality connectivity, business uptake of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics, semiconductor production, and support for start-up ecosystems.

The report underscores the EU’s and member states’ critical role in enforcing new legal frameworks, promoting the adoption of digital technologies, and ensuring citizens possess adequate digital skills. It serves as a call to action for member states to significantly increase their digital ambitions, highlighting the importance of this step in the EU’s digital transformation.

It emphasises that achieving Digital Decade goals in digital infrastructure, business digitalisation, skills enhancement, and public service digitalisation is not just important but essential for the EU’s economic prosperity and societal cohesion, underlining their crucial role in shaping the EU’s future.

Significant challenges

The EU faces significant challenges in achieving its connectivity targets outlined in the DDPP. Currently, fibre networks, crucial for delivering gigabit connectivity needed for technologies like AI and IoT, cover only 64% of households.

Similarly, high-quality 5G networks, pivotal for advanced services, reach just 50% of the EU territory. Bridging these gaps requires not just efforts but also concerted and collaborative efforts between member states and the Commission to foster a cohesive Digital Single Market, a key element in achieving the EU’s digital transformation goals.

Moreover, European businesses’ uptake of AI, cloud computing, and big data remains below target. Under current trends, projections suggest that by 2030, only 64% of businesses will use cloud services, 50% will utilise big data, and a mere 17% will adopt AI technologies.

High-quality 5G networks, pivotal for advanced services, reach just 50% of the EU territory. Credit: Robs

To bolster digitalisation efforts, particularly among SMEs and startups, it is imperative to incentivize the adoption of innovative digital tools and increase private investments.

A significant hurdle in the EU’s digital transformation is the uneven distribution of digital technologies beyond major urban centres. Enhancing cooperation at both cross-border and local levels is essential to bridge this digital divide.

Key initiatives

Initiatives such as Multi-Country Projects, European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs), and European Digital Infrastructure Consortia (EDICs) have shown promising results, with several EDICs established by mid-2024.

Meanwhile, efforts to enhance digital skills across the EU are crucial. Only 55.6% of the EU population currently possesses basic digital skills, falling short of the Digital Decade targets. Addressing this requires a multifaceted approach, including integrating digital skills into education curricula and encouraging more young people, particularly girls, to pursue STEM disciplines.

Progress towards making critical public services accessible online and providing secure electronic identification (eID) to EU citizens and businesses is uneven across member states. While eID availability has reached 93% of the EU population, achieving full digital public service accessibility by 2030 remains challenging under current projections.

Looking ahead, member states are tasked with revising and aligning their national roadmaps to meet the ambitious targets set by the DDPP before December 2024. The Commission will continue to monitor progress and provide updated recommendations in its following report in 2025.

Digital Decade

The Digital Decade represents a pivotal initiative for the EU. It aims to enhance competitiveness and resilience and ensure an inclusive digital transformation that benefits all European citizens and businesses. Through robust policies, targeted investments, and collaborative efforts, the EU endeavours to navigate the complexities of the digital age while fostering innovation and sustainable growth.

Initiated in September 2021, the Digital Decade outlines a strategic path for the EU’s digital future, complemented by the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles in December 2022.

Significant EU funding through initiatives like the Recovery and Resilience Facility and DIGITAL Europe underscores the EU’s commitment to digital transformation, which supports economic recovery and resilience across the EU.

This year’s report, accompanied by extensive supplementary documents and contributions from the Joint Research Centre, underscores the EU’s commitment to transparency and accountability in achieving its digital ambitions.

Featured image: The EU faces significant challenges in achieving its connectivity targets outlined in the Digital Decade Policy Programme. Credit: Christian Lue

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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