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We now know of a huge demand that the pandemic has placed on us in terms of digital resilience, as citizens and as companies. The accelerated digitalization that we have been experiencing in recent months represents, in normal situations, years of work, and was undoubtedly an effective driver of digital transformation. Portugal, together with the 27 EU Member States, was put to the test in new areas, with new work models, new digital channels, new training and re-qualification methods. All areas where technology and the digital maturity of our society assumed a central role in the response to the pandemic crisis.
O DESI is a quantitative indicator published by the European Union since 2015, which aims to digitally assess and compare the 27 Member States, identifying national policies and priority areas of intervention for sustainable digital innovation. This analysis is structured in four fundamental dimensions – Human Capital, Connectivity, Integration of Digital Technology and Digital Public Services -, which are divided into 33 indicators, allowing the monitoring of its evolution over time.
Portugal occupies 16th place among the 27 EU Member States in the 2021 edition, rising three places compared to 2020. Despite this rise, there is a path of delay compared to the European average, which continues to increase in all dimensions, as depicted in the first graph.
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The Human Capital dimension seeks to measure the population’s level of preparation and digital processing, the number of professionals in the ICT area and higher education. In this dimension, Portugal occupies 18th place among the 27 EU countries, with a low level of basic digital skills in general and in software, occupying 19th place in both indicators, well below the EU average.
In terms of ICT professionals, Portugal ranks third from the bottom in the percentage of ICT graduates and below average in terms of ICT specialties in the labor market. The percentage of women ICT specialists (22%) stands out positively, occupying the 4th place, and also the percentage of training in ICT training, standing above the average, in 13th place.
Despite the progress observed, Portugal needs a systemic approach in terms of digital skills, segmented by different population groups, which allows it to respond to the need for an increasingly specific and demanding labor market, a business sector undergoing accelerated digitization and lack of modified resources, and that bet on requalification, early vocational guidance and innovation and continuous learning.
With regard to Connectivity, Portugal occupies 15th place in the EU, with an increase in the adhesion to fixed broadband of at least 100 Mbps, ranking 3rd in coverage of the very high capacity fixed network (VHCN). 7th place and 4G coverage is above average. In the remaining indicators, Portugal remains far below the EU average, both in terms of taking up mobile broadband (24th place) and in terms of preparation and 5G coverage.
Overall, Portugal shows positive results in the adoption of broadband and the implementation of very high capacity networks. However, to obtain the greatest aggregate benefits from the new 5G communications platform, it is essential to increase the percentages of coverage of very high capacity networks and the uptake of mobile broadband, including in rural areas.
The Integration of Digital Technologies dimension seeks to measure the adoption of digital technologies by companies in conducting the activity, with a set of indicators ranging from the use of social networks, through electronic commerce, to more advanced forms of digital adoption such as the cloud , big data or artificial intelligence. Portugal is ranked 17th in the EU, having dropped one place compared to 2020 and remains below the European average.
The use of ICT for environmental sustainability stands out positively – where we lead -, the percentage of electronic commerce and electronic information division – in both in third place -, followed by the percentage of companies that use artificial intelligence (8th place). ) and the percentage of SMEs with online sales, in 11th position.
On the negative side, the percentage of SMEs with a digital basic level is much lower than the European average (21st place), the percentage of companies using social networks (22nd place) and the adoption of a growth cloud that makes us slow down vis-à-vis the EU ( 17th place) )
Despite the active promotion of technology in our business fabric, made up mostly of micro-enterprises operating in traditional sectors with low digital literacy, it is essential to continue to invest in a strategy for integrating digital technology in business processes, promoting entrepreneurship, creating knowledge and intellectual property and, at the same time, complement it with digital training and professional re-qualification. A note for a research cloud strategy for a public administration, a C-TIC charge, which can represent for Portugal an important accelerator of the European trajectory in this area.
This dimension seeks to measure the adoption of digital technologies by the public administration in its relationship with citizens and companies, whether through the provision of pre-filled forms, whether through the provision of online services to citizens and companies, or through the availability of access to open data platforms. Portugal occupies 14th place, one place below 2020, but above the EU average.
The number of users of public services recognized far below the EU average, in 22nd place. In terms of pre-filled forms, the ranking is above the European average, occupying 11th place, as well as in the provision of digital services to citizens and businesses. On the negative side, the low use and profitability of open data stands out, occupying the 25th position.
The new national strategy for the work cloud, January 2021, addresses outstanding legal, contractual and financial issues, data security and location concerns, as well as issues related to standardization and simplification of concepts, the which can strengthen the adoption of measures for the digitization of public services. In parallel and transversally, the effort to improve basic digital skills will allow a greater percentage of the population to benefit from these services, benefiting both dimensions, digital skills and digital public services.
This factual analysis highlights the importance of the integrated and transversal execution of the current government’s digital transition plan, with each of the three pillars, people, companies and state, being coordinated with the others. Doing it in isolation is lost as obvious synergies, for example: to have competitive companies, we need people with digital skills, to have better digital services we need an agile and capable public administration.
Finally, it is essential to realize that despite all initiatives in this area, the remaining 27 Member States continue to develop new actions that allow them to maintain their leadership in the digital field, as seen in the time evolution of each indicator.
Therefore, it is not an annual race, with a winner every year, but a marathon, continuous and fast-paced, where innovation, the adoption of new technologies, re-qualification and continuous learning are the great drivers short and long term.