EU’s digital transformation goals are falling short, report warns

3 Jul 2024

Image: © respiro888/

The report called for more investment into areas such as digital skills and AI, while Ireland appears to be struggling to address the ICT skills gap and advancing e-health initiatives.

The EU’s plans to boost technology and innovation across the bloc is not going according to plan, as it appears many member states will fall short in their digital transformation goals.

That’s according to a new State of the Digital Decade report by the European Commission, which looks at the progress the EU is making towards its 2030 digital goals. This report also looked at the strategic roadmaps of each member state – including Ireland – to assess their plans to contribute to these goals.

This Digital Decade initiative sets out various objectives to support a digital transformation across the EU that fosters competitiveness, resilience, sovereignty and sustainability, according to the European Commission.

Some of the key areas where there are measurable goals include connectivity, digital skills, digital business and digital public services. For example, in digital business, one goal is for 75pc of EU companies to use cloud, AI or big data services. Another goal is to have 100pc of key public services available online and to give everyone access to electronic IDs.

But in its latest report, the Commission identified gaps in various objectives, such as digital skills, high-quality connectivity, the uptake of AI and data analytics by enterprises, semiconductor production and start-up ecosystems. The report claims that there is a need for additional investments in these areas, both at an EU and national level.

The new report calls for member states to be more ambitious in their digital transformation goals and shared country-specific recommendations for every EU country to address identified gaps.

EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said the report “clearly shows” that the EU is not on track to reach its digital transformation targets.

“But it also indicates a clear way forward: we need additional investments in digital skills, high-quality connectivity and uptake of artificial intelligence,” Vestager said. “We need to incentivise the use of digital tools. We need many more people to get digital skills – both basic and expert level – to leverage our strengths. And we need to foster cooperation and better integrate our single market to really enable the digital transformation across Europe.”

Recommendations for Ireland

The report looked at Ireland’s National Strategic Roadmap to contribute to these broader EU objectives, which the Irish Government published in November 2023.

The EU report noted that Ireland made “notable progress” in its fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure and noted some key strengths that the country has, such as a high portion of the population having at least a basic level of digital skills – 72.9pc compared to the EU average of 55.6pc.

The report also said Ireland’s FTTP infrastructure covers 78.5pc of the country’s households, which is above the EU average of 64pc. But it noted some key weaknesses for Ireland, such as the difficulty in addressing the ICT skills gap and its slow progress in advancing electronic health initiatives.

“Ireland must improve its performance towards the Digital Decade targets and objectives, to foster competitiveness, resilience, sovereignty and promote European values and climate action,” the report said.

Some of the key recommendations for Ireland listed in the EU report include addressing connectivity infrastructure issues that create bottlenecks, such as “permissions for mast deployment to extend mobile coverage”.

The report also suggested that Ireland expand apprenticeship programmes, reskilling and upskilling to meet the growing demand for ICT specialists and bridge the gender gap.

Finally, the report recommends that Ireland take a greater focus on e-health and increase the supply of health data by “onboarding more categories of healthcare providers”.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic