Digital Agenda: Annual scoreboard confirms need for structural economic reform
Europe's citizens, businesses and innovators are generating enough digital demand to put Europe into sustainable economic growth, but failure to supply enough fast internet, online content, research and relevant skills is undermining this potential. Greater data consumption and a shift to mobile technologies (such as smartphones) and mobile services (such as 3G internet, music streaming and webmail) are the most significant trends in the information & communications technologies (ICT) sector, which now accounts for 8 million jobs and 6% of EU GDP.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "Europeans are hungry for digital technologies and more digital choices, but governments and industry are not keeping up with them. This attachment to 20th century policy mindsets and business models is hurting Europe’s economy. It’s a terrible shame. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by under-investing. Europe will be flattened by its global competitors if we continue to be complacent.”
Key findings in the European Commission's Digital Agenda (DAE) Scoreboard include:
Broadband is nearly ubiquitous in Europe. 95% of Europeans have access to a fixed broadband connection.
Consumers and businesses are moving fast to mobile. Mobile Internet take-up grew by 62% to 217 million mobile broadband subscriptions.
15 million Europeans connected for the first time in 2011, with now 68% of Europeans online regularly and 170 million on social networks. For the first time a majority of economically disadvantaged Europeans have used the internet, but one in four Europeans have still never used the internet.
Greece, Portugal and Ireland have turned to eGovernment to help maintain quality public services. Alongside the Czech Republic, the greatest increases in eGovernment provision and use have been in cash-strapped economies, underlining the valuable role of eGovernment in successful structural reform.
Areas of concern
Half of European labour force does not have sufficient ICT skills to help them change or find a new job. While 43% of the EU population has medium or high Internet skills and can, for example, use the Internet to make a phone call or create a web page, nearly half of the labour force is not confident their computer and internet skills are sufficient in this labour market. Almost 25% have no ICT skills. These problems are making it difficult to fill ICT vacancies which will number 700,000 by 2015.
Online shopping is still a national activity. While 58% of EU internet users are shopping online, only one in ten have purchased from a website based in another EU member state. Language barriers and red tape (such as refusal to deliver and copyright complications) are the biggest problems.
Use of eCommerce by SMEs has stalled. The majority of SMEs neither shop nor sell online, limiting their export and revenue potential.
Research investments are falling further behind our competitors. While public research has been protected from austerity measures – spending is well below the 6% annual growth needed to double public investment by 2020. Commercial research investments are falling. The EU ICT sector now has less than half the R&D intensity of the US ICT sector.
Telecoms companies continue to rip-off consumers with mobile roaming prices. In 2011-12 more companies broke ranks with rip-off approach, by offering price bundles or roaming rates that mirror national rates. However consumers still pay an average of three and a half times as much for roaming calls as for national calls.
Of the 101 actions of the Digital Agenda (IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200), 34 are complete. 52 are on track and 15 are delayed or at risk of delay. The Digital Scoreboard process also analyses the state of the EU's telecoms market, and Europe's Digital Competiveness (see MEMO/12/446).
The European Commission is responsible for creating a regulatory and business climate that will foster competition and investment in Europe’s digital technology markets.
The 2012 Digital Agenda Scoreboard assesses progress at EU and national level in achieving this climate, as measured against the 78 Digital Agenda actions for the Commission and 23 actions for Member States.
Significant regulatory proposals have been made in 2011-12 to achieve this, including:
A new Roaming Regulation to extend price caps to data and introduce new competition.
EU ministers have reached a preliminary agreement (see IP/12/583) on the Connecting Europe Facility, including over €7 billion of EU support to leverage private investment in next generation broadband and to develop essential online services like eProcurement, eHealth and care, eJustice and Europeana.
Under Horizon 2020, the EU's next research and innovation funding programme, the Commission proposes an €80 billion investment, with ICT as the largest sectoral beneficiary
A regulation to provide for harmonization of eSignatures and other trust services that are key to unlocking the savings of eProcurement, and for mutual recognition of electronic identification between EU Member States.
An eCommerce action plan to facilitate cross-border access to online products and content and ultimately solve the problems of payment, delivery and consumer protection and information (see IP/12/10).
Member States have also been requested by President Barroso to appoint a ‘Digital Champion’ as bridge-builder and public face for the value of internet, while Neelie Kroes has called on industry, educators and other groups to form a grand coalition for ICT jobs, including better opportunities for IT training (SPEECH/12/282).
EU strategies for cloud computing and internet security will be presented in 2012.
For more information
Scoreboard country profiles: look at broadband, Internet use, eGovernment, telecoms regulatory and research trends for each EU country
Neelie Kroes' website
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