March 22, 2016

Digital Europe—we are getting there, but too slowly

The EU’s Digital Single Market strategy is quite rightly seen as Europe’s critical plan to increase competitiveness, productivity and well-being. However, recent findings show that we are far behind our fellow nations of Japan, USA and South Korea.

At the end of February 2016, the EU published a follow-up report on its Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This report assessed the steps each EU country has taken so far on their digitalization journeys. These KPIs are the basis of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI).

Today, there are many studies and cross-country comparisons on digitalization, but DESI provides a special perspective as it is a self-analysis performed by EU member states.

Europe is not a global leader in digitalization

DESI makes it clear that in the past year, there has been progress in areas such as connectivity, digital skills and digital public services. Yet, the overall pace has slowed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland lead DESI rankings, but the fastest digital development is nevertheless found overseas. The EU as a whole needs to significantly improve in order to become a global leader in digitalization.

A focus on online public services

In general, the EU offers progressively more public services online, but they are still under-used. The number of citizens interacting online with EU administration has not increased since the last survey in 2015—remaining at just 32%.

Finland is ahead in digitalized public service offerings, especially in eGovernment and eHealth. But as I have noticed in my role as the head of Tieto’s public services business in Finland, there is much work to be done in serving people digitally across organizational or administrative boundaries. We also need to think across borders—how can people use services and utilize data

The expectations and a focus for the future are on streamlining cross-governmental service processes to improve the cross-border experience. Accordingly, the Finnish government has identified this area as one of its key development programs, with a budget of 16 MEUR.

We at Tieto run many of the Nordic government processes and tirelessly support the improvement of digital performances across Nordic societies. Why? Let me summarize:

  1. Digitalized cross-government public services drive well-being and efficiency for citizens, enterprises and society.
  2. We need to keep pace with global development—for the sake of remaining competitive.
  3. It is important to reduce public spending during fiscally difficult times.

Observers anxiously await the recommendations the EU will make in May 2016 based on today’s DESI for improving the digital performancesof its member states. The EU will also continue to drive the  Digital Single Market framework.

As revealed by DESI assessments, online public services are currently under-used. Here I think we can all make a difference through improved communications and by simply checking what services are already available online, actively using the most effective ones and providing feedback to service providers so that they may develop services based on reality rather than theory.

It is we who make the world digitaltechnology just provides the tools.

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