Digital Agenda: Annual scoreboard confirms need for structural economic reform across Europe and surplus of ICT jobs; big trend towards mobile services and technology

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Europe’s citizens, businesses and innovato r s 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:

Positive developments:

  • 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. Here to read more.

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