European digital single market: still a long way to go?

BELGIUM-EU-DIGITAL-MARKETTwo weeks ago the last edition of the DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index) has been released. It’s a key EU report that summarises the most relevant indicator on European countries digital performance and tracks the evolution in digital competitiveness. It’s very interesting to dive into the data and charts to discover how the digital single market is a long and challenging evolution path.

One of the most interesting indicators is connectivity: it summarises the deployment of broadband infrastructure and its quality, as a necessary condition for competitiveness and successful business. Even more important considering the 4.0 technology revolution in manufacturing processes which is a key driver in several EU states government strategy for economic development. There’s a consistent growth, both in landline broadband infrastructures and mobile ones with 4G LTW standard, but a huge gap among most developed countries and the EU peripheric ones is still visible. Italy is among them with an ongoing battle on public procurement process Infratel (€ 1,4 bln) that will see a strong engagement by the government to serve less profitable areas in the country and a strong involvement of OpEn Fiber a joint venture of Enel (the energy major company) and CdP.

desi banner

The human capital and digital skills indicatori s impressive. Only 44% of European citizens has only basic digital skills, but 79% is regularly online (at least once a week), still increasing constantly each year. It’s a concerning figure not only for the competitiveness of European human capital, but for its implications in politics and in the social texture evolution. Following the worrying relevant role of fake news and lack of awareness while using social media and social sources for gathering information by the average citizen in the US elections, and the rise of populism in EU, such a lack of skills has deep effects on our political future.

A glance then to the digital tools and technologies used by businesses reveals a big surprise. Even if every figure is increasing compared to the previous records, only 36% of EU companies implemented business software for sharing information and 18% only features electronic invoicing while a bare 20% of our companies uses social media to engage their audience.
E-commerce, that’s a key driver in export and economic development in the near future, is still worrying for SMEs: only 17% of EU small and medium enterprises sells online, and half of them sells cross border while a relevant portion of extra country trade is intended in EU only destinations. It’s a consistent gap to recover if we think that 20% of total trade will be covered by online channels very soon.

Italy (here’s the last country profile) has a relevant gap in several strategic indicators: connectivity is expensive and quite below standards in terms of coverage and performance, while human capital is below the EU average in terms of skills and ICT specialists graduating each year. Business experience also a lack of competitiveness. Here’s a chart that shows a clear delay: it’ll be strategic, for a country selling abroad top luxury made in Italy products and positioning itself in specific high end market segments.

sme selling online

Italy’s SMEs selling online are really few. It’s a poor performance that needs to be recovered to successfully serve made in Italy international market segments

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