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Information technology

The digital economy – provided that it is efficient, inclusive and innovative - has the potential to transform both business and society as a whole. The key to progress is to provide better products and services through new, more effective processes.

Boy surfing the web © Bilderbox

One of the majority – a regular internet user.

The digital economy is growing 7 times faster than the real economy. The information and communication technology (ICT) sector represents 4.8% of the EU economy. ICT accounts for 25% of all business expenditure on research and development (R&D), while investment in this sector generates 50% of all productivity growth in the EU.

Digital technologies underpin innovation and competitiveness in the private and public sectors alike and scientific progress in all disciplines.

However, the ICT sector in the EU has been held back by a patchy policy framework. The European Commission has therefore been working to improve this framework, with an emphasis on:

  • creating an open digital market in the EU
  • ensuring fair access for all companies
  • defending consumer interests
  • setting technical standards
  • investing in ICT research & innovation

The EU's Digital Agenda for Europe aims to reboot Europe's economy and help EU citizens and businesses get the most out of digital technologies. Creating a digital single market will bring long-term economic and social benefits.

The Digital Agenda has already made progress towards 3 main objectives:

  • making communication better, faster & cheaper
  • strengthening EU industry through support for strategic research
  • boosting digital skills, jobs & entrepreneurship.

The digital economy has the potential to create a virtuous circle. Attractive content and services, made available in an interoperable, borderless internet environment, stimulate demand for higher speeds and capacity. This creates a business case for investing in faster networks, which in their turn pave the way for innovative services based on higher speeds.

The Commission has set itself 13 goals, each of which will bring the EU closer to the overall objective – a prosperous and competitive digital society.

  1. EU-wide broadband by 2013
  2. EU-wide broadband above 30 mega bites per second by 2020
  3. 50% of people in the EU to subscribe to broadband above 100 megabits per second by 2020
  4. 50% of people in the EU to shop online by 2015
  5. 20% of people in the EU to buy goods and services in other EU countries by 2015
  6. 33% of small and medium-sized businesses to make online sales by 2015
  7. Difference between roaming and national tariffs to approach zero by 2015
  8. Increase regular internet usage from 60% to 75% by 2015, and from 41% to 60% among disadvantaged people
  9. Halve the proportion of people who have never used the internet from 30% to 15% by 2015
  10. 15% of EU citizens to use eGovernment by 2015, with over half returning completed forms
  11. All key cross-border public services agreed by EU countries in 2011 to be available online by 2015
  12. Double public investment in R&D on information and communications technology to €11 bn by 2020
  13. Cut by 20% the amount of energy used for lighting by 2020

The European Commission and EU countries are on track to meet 72 of the Commission's 101 digital targets by 2015, according to 2014 data. This is good progress. EU citizens and businesses are using the internet and shopping online more, their ICT skills are improving, and their confidence is growing.

EU average
Basic broadband coverage for all100%100% (achieved 2013)
Digital single market
People buying online47%50% (2015)
People engaging in cross-border e-commerce12%20% (2015)
Small & medium-sized businesses selling online14%33% (2015)
Digital inclusion
Regular internet use72%75% (2015)
Disadvantaged people using the internet regularly57%60% (2015)
People who have never used the internet20%15% (2015)
Public services
Citizens interacting online with public authorities42%50% (2015)
Citizens returning forms completed online to public authorities by 201521%25% (2015)

Read more on targets and achievements


Digital Agenda for Europe

Manuscript completed in November 2014

This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series




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