EU Digitization Progresses, but Slowly

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The European Union is becoming more digital, but progress isn’t as fast as it could be.

The EU’s digital performance ranking under the European Commission’s 2017 Digital Economy and Society Index—which measures internet connectivity, digital skills and digitization of businesses--increased by 3 percentage points from last year. The index was released March 3.

And not all member states are equal when it comes to digital. The gap between the most digital and the least digital countries was 37 percentage points, an increase of one percentage point from last year, according to the index.

"Europe is gradually becoming more digital but many countries need to step up their efforts,” European Digital Market Vice President Andrus Ansip said in a statement. “We should work together to make the EU a digital world leader.”

Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands had the highest digital performance scores on the index. Romania and Bulgaria had the lowest scores.

The index found that 76 percent of European homes have access to high-speed broadband, and that 4G mobile networks cover 84 percent of the EU population.  However, broadband availability in rural areas remains a problem, Ansip said.

The EU saw an increase in its number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates (19 graduates per 1,000 people in their twenties), but 44 percent of Europeans still lack basic digital skills such as sending online messages, the index found.

The commission is working on these issues as part of its Digital Single Market Strategy, a regulatory framework designed to remove barriers between EU states and promote innovation in the digital economy.  For example, the commission launched a coalition last December to tackle the challenges of digital illiteracy.

The commission said in a release that it will conduct a review in May of the DSM strategy to identify further efforts that may be needed.