The European Commission published last week the first report on the State of the Digital Decade, showing the progress towards achieving the digital transformation to empower a more digitally sovereign, resilient, and competitive EU.
As the first of a series of annual reports, it includes an assessment of the EU’s performance towards meeting its Digital Decade targets for 2030 regarding digital skills, digital infrastructure, and the digitalisation of businesses and public services.
It also provides recommendations for Member States and calls for collective action to accelerate digitalisation and address the current investment gaps. These actions will be supported by the newly introduced European Digital Infrastructure Consortium (EDIC), an instrument made available to Member States to speed up and simplify the implementation of multi-country projects.
According to the Joint Research Center (JRC), the main EU-level funding instruments provide more than €165 billion to support Digital Decade objectives, marking an unprecedented investment in digitalisation. 65% of this funding is allocated to the digitalisation of the public sector and businesses.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is the main source of public funding, providing over 70% of the funds mapped:
Additional investment of up to at least €200 billion is neededto ensure the 2030 target of achieving full gigabit coverage across the EU, as well as 5G coverage in all populated areas.
Member States are encouraged to explore financing to complement private investment in areas that are not commercially viable, including rural and remote areas, benefitting from the pro-investment EU regulatory framework.
The European Chips Act, which entered into force last month, will mobilise an expected €43 billion in public and private investment to double the EU’s global market share in cutting-edge semiconductors, moving from the current 10% to at least 20% by 2030.
Member States are also encouraged to promote national policies and investments to further stimulate domestic chip design and manufacturing capabilities and to boost local skills in advanced technologies across sectors.
Further investment and incentives will be needed to meet the targets of the Digital Decade Policy Programme (DDPP), which requires that at least 75% of EU enterprises adopt cloud computing services, big data, and/or artificial intelligence (AI); that more than 90% of small and medium businesses (SMEs) reach at least a basic level of digital intensity; and that the number of unicorns (companies with a valuation over €1 billion) is doubled.
To improve the take-up of technology, Member States are encouraged to raise awareness about the benefits of digitalising businesses, as well as promote and support the European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs).
Although many Member States are well positioned to achieve the full digitalisation of public services and the availability of electronic health records, as well as the deployment of a secure electronic identification (eID) for citizens, significant investments are still needed to improve the cross-border availability and performance of public services.
Member States are encouraged to prioritise investments in high-quality education and skills and to foster women’s participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) from an early age, in order to meet the EU’s commitment to increasing basic digital skills among at least 80% of those aged 16-74 and to reach 20 million of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) specialists by 2030.
Belgium’s RRP allocates 27% of its total budget to digital, of which €1.4 billion is expected to contribute to the Digital Transformation targets. The plan includes measures focusing on digital skills, digital infrastructure and connectivity, cybersecurity, and the Digitalisation of public services.
The country has improved its performance in the digitalisation of public services and businesses, performing above the EU average in the uptake of cloud computing, AI and big data. However, it is lagging on digital skills and connectivity infrastructure, although progress has been made on the roll-out and overall 5G coverage.
Belgium has also continued to reinforce its leading role within Europe on semiconductors through research and development by funding research in the area with IMEC, a leading research institute on semiconductors. Belgium is contributing to the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on Microelectronics and Communication Technologies with associated participants (receiving aid below the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) threshold). Belgium is also participating under the Digital Europe Programme to set up the project Belgian-QCI, the first quantum key distribution network in Belgium.
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