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Brussels, 31 May 2011
Digital Agenda: building a flourishing digital economy - Scoreboard outlines progress so far
The Digital Agenda Scoreboard (see IP/11/663) gives essential data and in-depth analysis of progress so far with the implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). The Scoreboard is the first to be published by the European Commission showing the performance of the EU and Member States in delivering on the agreed targets after the first year of existence of the DAE. The DAE includes 101 specific actions (78 for the Commission, of which 31 were legal proposals, and 23 for Member States) which will together boost investment in, and use of, digital technologies. They are grouped under 7 headings, each representing a key area of Europe's digital economy. Overall, progress is good: 11 actions have been completed (two ahead of schedule), 6 actions due to be delivered last year are delayed, and the other 84 are largely on track.
A vibrant digital single market
Progress in this area has been mixed. Some of the actions related to improving access to digital content have not progressed as quickly as originally foreseen. A major milestone will be achieved in the second half of 2011 with the review of the Data Protection Directive. The rest of the 21 actions under this heading have made good progress.
Internet usage and online content
The use of Internet in the EU continues to rise. 65% of citizens now use it at least weekly. Day-to-day activities traditionally carried out offline are increasingly performed online. For example, one third of citizens now use internet banking and read the news online. Not only have nearly all kinds of online content, like web radio or posting messages, become more popular, but the difference in popularity between the different kinds of content has also reduced.
Nevertheless, there is still considerable room for development for on-demand services and online music subscriptions, which for the moment find significant markets only in the largest European countries. In this context, DAE Action 1, which foresees simplified copyright clearance, management and cross-border licensing through a proposal for a framework Directive on collective rights management would help to unlock the EU's digital content market.
Most of the recent growth in Internet use has come from the educated middle-aged and from young citizens with lower educational levels. For young Europeans, usage rates have converged across countries, while for older citizens there is considerable variation between Member States. For highly educated young adults, use ranges from 88% to 100%, while for medium-educated elderly citizens the range is from 10% to 80%. Under, the Digital Agenda, Member States are due to implement by 2011 long-term e-skills and digital literacy policies and promote relevant incentives for small- and medium sized companies (SMEs) and disadvantaged groups (Action 66).
Telecoms regulatory developments
Over the past year, the Commission has monitored how EU Member States are implementing the EU's revised telecoms rules into national law (see IP/11/622). To assist them, the Commission provided guidance to Member States on several issues, such as on the revised ePrivacy Directive provisions on 'cookies' and on universal service.
On broadband development, regulators in a number of Member States have addressed the regulatory conditions for the roll-out of fast fibre networks (also known as 'next generation access' – NGA – networks). Consequently, important cases assessed under the Article 7 procedure (see MEMO/09/539) concerned infrastructure access and wholesale broadband access markets and the consistent treatment of NGA networks in terms of market definition and remedies.
Several Member States are considering using the "digital dividend" generated by the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting as part of their overall strategy to address the wireless broadband challenge. While auctions have been concluded in Germany and Sweden, other Member States are planning them during 2011 and 2012 (Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom)
Moreover, 2010 also saw the first instance of an EU country (Finland) deciding to include the delivery of a broadband connection on the list of essential basic telecoms services which should be available to all citizens and businesses, also known as universal service obligations. Similar measures have also been considered in other Member States (for example Malta, Romania, Spain and Sweden).
Interoperability and standards
Two actions were completed last year. The adoption of the proposal for the European Interoperability Strategy and the Interoperability Framework (see IP/10/1734) last December was a milestone to move Europe's administrations into a modern age. The other outstanding action, a package of legislative and non-legislative proposals on standardisation is due to be adopted imminently.
Trust and security
Actions are all progressing well. Those scheduled for 2010 have been initiated. The challenges of global trust and security require continuous activity and monitoring of actions throughout the lifetime of the Digital Agenda.
Security concerns remain of utmost importance for EU Internet users. For example, 20% of them say they do not use online banking or shop online for reasons of security. It is true that an increase in security concerns can be partly explained by Internet users' increasing awareness of potential risks. Nevertheless, their partial abstention from these services indicates the need for a reinforced effort to promote security.
At the same time, efforts to protect users do not always appear to be proportionate to the risks. For example, while 84% of Internet users use some kind of security tool (firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam), a quarter of these does not update their security tools regularly.
To improve security, the Digital Agenda includes actions to establish a European cybercrime platform, the feasibility of a European cybercrime centre, and the modernisation of the European Network and Information Security Agency, ENISA (see IP/10/1239).
The new EU telecoms rules which were due to be implemented by Member States by 25th May 2011 oblige telecoms operators and Internet service providers to inform consumers and data protection authorities without undue delay if personal data such as names, e-mail addresses and bank account information is lost (see MEMO/11/320). DAE action 34 commits the European Commission to considering whether this obligatory security breach notification should be extended to other areas.
Fast and ultra-fast Internet access
The Commission adopted three complementary measures to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe in September 2010: a Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access (MEMO/10/424, a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (MEMO/10/425 and a Communication on Broadband (MEMO/10/427). Now the focus is on working with Member States and stakeholders on putting the proposals into practice as well as on financing solutions for the investment needed to upgrade Europe to high-speed infrastructures.
The electronic communications sector performed slightly better in 2010 than the year before. Although overall revenue growth was still negative (-0.7%), revenues grew in fixed internet access (+5.6%), mobile data services (+9.4%) and pay TV (+6.8%), but fell in traditional fixed voice (-6.7%) and mobile voice (-4.2%)
Coverage of fixed broadband access stood at 95% in 2010, but there were still 23.5 million citizens in the EU (including 18 million living in rural areas) who were not able to connect to broadband Internet. If this current trend continues, by 2013, the whole of the EU population is expected to have access to some kind of commercially viable broadband service, fulfilling one of the Digital Agenda and "Europe 2020" targets.
Take-up of fixed broadband is increasing, but the growth rate in 2010 was the lowest since 2002. In January 2011, there were 26.6 fixed broadband lines per 100 inhabitants in the EU. The slowdown in growth is of concern, as currently close to 40% of households still have no broadband connection. At the same time, mobile broadband is getting more and more popular. Coverage of third generation mobile networks reached 90% in 2010, and take-up of mobile internet on large screens such as notebooks (through a dedicated data device) increased to 7.2%.
The Digital Agenda for Europe's goal of 30 Mbps universal coverage is already available for almost 30% of all households; however, only 5% of all fixed lines deliver speeds of 30 Mbps and above. The number of households connecting at 100 Mbps was still marginal in January 2011, while 39% of fixed broadband lines featured speeds between 10 Mbps and 30 Mbps.
Research and innovation
Overall DAE actions in this area are all on track but Member States have been slow to boost investment in ICT research and development (R&D).
The years 2007-2010 were a period of intense innovation for the ICT industry, seeing the emergence of smart phones, electronic tablets, LED and 3-D displays, and Cloud Computing. Although R&D spending usually diminishes in a time of economic difficulty, R&D spending in ICT declined at a slower pace than revenues.
The European ICT industry is now back on a positive, but still defensive, growth path. Limited liquidity (in particular compared to US competitors) and tougher technological and market competition are leading many companies to focus their production on their best performing products.
The Digital Agenda seeks to maintain Europe's competitive edge through increased coordination and elimination of Europe's fragmented research and innovation efforts. As part of this; the Commission aims to leverage more private investment through the strategic use of pre-commercial procurement and public-private partnerships (Action 50) Under Action 52, the Commission will propose measures for ‘light and fast’ access to EU research funds in ICT for SMEs and young researchers
Enhancing digital literacy, skills and inclusion
Overall progress in this sector is good. Two actions were delivered last year, one ahead of schedule (Memorandum of Understanding on digital access for persons with disabilities), and three are at risk of delay.
While 65% of EU citizens now go online every week, in 2010 more than a quarter of the population had still never used Internet. One year on, this has improved by 5 percentage points. The largest remaining challenge is getting the rest of EU citizens online.
Non-users largely comprise the old and the less well-educated in all Member States, as well as large proportions of the general population in less connected countries (such as Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Romania). The main barriers to going online are lack of interest, cost and lack of skills. Women generally have lower operational ICT skills levels than men, while young people under 24 are generally very digitally competent.
As more daily tasks are carried out online, people will require enhanced digital skills to fully participate in society. The Digital Agenda aims to tackle this digital divide, for example by prioritising digital literacy and competence under the European Social Fund. Funding from the European Social Fund can be a powerful tool to enhance digital skills and literacy across the EU in a targeted way.
-enabled benefits for Society
There are more actions is this area than elsewhere, underlining the wide range of uses and applications of digital technologies in different parts of the economy and society. Progress is good overall: out of 29 actions, two are delayed, and with concerns flagged for some actions due this year.
The availability of basic eGovernment services such as online tax declarations and electronic requests and delivery of marriage certificates improved steadily in 2010 (84% compared to 73% in 2009), especially for citizens' services (81% in 2010, 64% in 2009). However, the delivery of advanced (and personalised) services is less mature. This could make it more difficult to expand eGovernment across the vast majority of the population, especially to traditionally weaker groups like the elderly and the less well-educated, which still show the lowest usage rates.
While businesses have a greater take-up than citizens (75% compared to 41%), more and more citizens are learning to use eGovernment services in an interactive way.
The eGovernment Action Plan (see IP/10/1718), which aims at executing a number of actions outlined in the DAE, outlines forty specific measures to enable citizens and businesses to use online facilities to, for example, register a business, apply for and access social security and health benefits, enrol in a university or bid to provide goods and services for public administrations.
While more than 90% of European hospitals are connected to broadband and 80% have electronic patient record systems, only 4% of hospitals grant patients online access to their electronic records, according to the results of a survey conducted for the European Commission (see MEMO/11/282). European hospitals are more advanced than US hospitals in terms of external medical exchange, but they lag behind in using eHealth to view laboratory reports or radiology images. eHealth applications have a growing role in Europe's hospitals, according to the survey, but there are still wide variations in take-up, with Nordic countries taking the lead. Large, public and university hospitals are generally more advanced in eHealth terms than smaller, private ones.
The Digital Agenda will support the development of eHealth though pilot actions to equip Europeans with secure online access to their medical health data by 2015 and to achieve by 2020 widespread deployment of telemedicine services (Action 75).
For more information
Digital Agenda website:
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