Digital technologies or information and communication technologies (ICTs) include a wide range of tools, processes and actors to improve the collection, storage, dissemination, and analysis of information. ICTs have these characteristics of being highly invasive and constantly evolving. They therefore have an impact on most of our personal, professional and political activities.
Within the Euro zone, these technologies are deployed differently according to the Member states’ priorities and capacities. This blog post aims to briefly discuss the use of ICTs in these 19 countries. It focuses on digital economy and society, and cybersecurity.
Digital Economy and Society in the Euro zone
The countries of the Euro zone have adopted digital technologies rather heterogeneously. Five categories of indicators are considered here.
1. Connectivity: measures the deployment of the infrastructure enabling access to fast and ultra-fast broadband services. It considers both the demand and the supply of fixed and mobile networks.
2. Human Capital: measures the skills needed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technologies. It assesses the digital skills of European citizens, but also the number of tech graduates and the employment of ICTs experts.
3. Use of Internet Services: represents a variety of online activities, such as the consumption of online content (videos, music, games, etc.), video calls, and online shopping and banking.
4. Digital Enterprise: measures business digitization and e-commerce. It includes electronic information sharing, social networks, e-invoices and cloud-based solutions.
5. Digital Public Services: Measures the digitalization of public services, with an emphasis on online approaches and online health.
To perform this analysis, the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) was used. DESI is published by the European Commission and measures the progress of the European Union (EU) countries towards a digital society and economy since 2014.
On the one hand, three “champions” – Finland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – offer ultra-fast internet access (fixed and mobile), state-of-the-art digital education, and effective (private and public) online services. SMEs in these three states have also widely adopted ICTs, giving them a substantial competitive advantage.
On the other hand, the three states in the Euro zone that have the least developed digital technologies are Portugal, Cyprus, and Greece. They have not developed half of the indicators measured here and therefore are struggling to benefit from technological advances for both citizens and businesses. These six states (Finland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Cyprus, and Greece) are rather representative of the general trend emerging from this research. Northern Euro zone countries (+ Estonia and Spain) show higher levels of digital development than in the South and East of the Euro zone.
Concerning the categories “human capital” and “use of Internet services”, a great heterogeneity is observed. These two sets of indicators are also linked: it takes skills to be able to use the Internet. The development of digital skills is nevertheless essential to innovate and help the economic development of the Euro zone. This disparity can also be explained by the fact that education is not an exclusive or shared competence of the Union. Italy and Portugal are slightly lagging behind in these 2 categories (“human capital” and “use of Internet services”). With regard to “e-public services”, a large disparity is also to be noted with the the largest variance (0.016) among all Euro zone countries. These results confirm the aforementioned trend: citizens in the South and East of the Euro zone seem to be less familiar with digital technologies and tend to use them less than those in the North.
The first three economies of the euro zone (Germany, France and Italy) are not the first in this ranking and are outpaced by other states that seem to have better adopted digital technologies. In particular, we can note France’s weak performance in terms of connectivity, Italy’s poor performance for most indicators, and Germany, which remains average.
Lastly, as for “infrastructure that enables connectivity”, the results are less heterogeneous than for the other categories of indicators, and show a rather advanced development of infrastructures allowing a wide and fast access to the Internet. This result can be explained by the fact that this was one of EU’s most ambitious target, and that its necessity is widely recognised among EU institutions, national public and private actors.
Cybersecurity in the Euro zone
Among the States of the Euro zone, cybersecurity is not perceived similarly. A great heterogeneity and large variance (0.02) is observed among these 19 states in terms of cybersecurity commitment.
The Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is used here as a source of information. For each of the 5 themes (legal, technical, organizational, capacity building and cooperation), a number of questions were asked by a panel of experts to state representatives to assess states’ cybersecurity commitment.
France and Estonia are the two leaders of the Euro zone. Estonia’s leadership in terms of cybersecurity is quite understandable, partly because of the very advanced digitization of public services, and secondly because of Russian attacks several years ago. France’s leadership is just as expected, being a state with a unique defense and nuclear capability in the Euro zone. Italy is also better positioned, above average, while Spain is lagging behind, just above 50%.
However, here as well, we can find a general trend that divides the Euro zone in two: cybersecurity protection is less developed in the South and East of the Euro zone.
Such disparity in results suggests that Euro zone states should focus more on digital issues, and in particular on the digitization of SMEs and cybersecurity. These are indeed two essential points to boost the economy and protect businesses and citizens from cyberattacks, which are becoming more numerous every day, and which are still unregulated for the moment.