State of the Union: Commission proposes a Path to the Digital Decade to deliver the EU’s digital transformation by 2030

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the Commission proposed a Path to the Digital Decade, a concrete plan to achieve the digital transformation of our society and economy by 2030. The proposed Path to the Digital Decade will translate the EUʼs digital ambitions for 2030 into a concrete delivery mechanism. It will set up a governance framework based on an annual cooperation mechanism with Member States to reach the 2030 Digital Decade targets at Union level in the areas of digital skills, digital infrastructures, digitalisation of businesses and public services. It also aims to identify and implement large-scale digital projects involving the Commission and the Member States.

The pandemic highlighted the central role that digital technology plays in building a sustainable and prosperous future. In particular, the crisis exposed a divide between digitally apt businesses and those yet to adopt digital solutions, and highlighted the gap between well-connected urban, rural and remote areas. Digitalisation offers many new opportunities on the European marketplace, where more than 500,000 vacancies for cybersecurity and data experts remained unfilled in 2020. In line with European values, the Path to the Digital Decade should reinforce our digital leadership and promote human centred and sustainable digital policies empowering citizens and businesses.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for ‘A Europe Fit for the Digital Age’, said: “The European vision for a digital future is one where technology empowers people. So today we propose a concrete plan to achieve the digital transformation. For a future where innovation works for businesses and for our societies. We aim to set up a governance framework based on an annual cooperation mechanism to reach targets in the areas of digital skills, digital infrastructures, digitalisation of businesses and public services.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, said: “Europe is determined to lead in the global technological race. Setting ourselves 2030 targets was an important step, but now we need to deliver. We must ensure that Europe is not in a position of great dependence in the years to come. Otherwise, we will remain too exposed to the ups and downs of the world, and miss out on economic growth and job creation. I believe in a Europe that leads on the markets of the future, not one that is a mere subcontractor.

Path to the Digital Decade

Building on the 2030 Digital Compass, in which the Commission laid out the vision for a successful digital transformation of Europe’s economy and society by the end of the decade, the Commission now introduces a robust governance framework to reach the digital targets in the form of a Path to the Digital Decade.

Digital progress in the Member States has been very uneven in the last years. The trend shows that the countries progressing at a slow pace five years ago, have continued to progress slowly until now. With this new Path to the Digital Decade, there will be structured cooperation to work collectively towards the agreed objectives, while recognising different starting points among Member States.

Specifically, the Commission proposes to engage in an annual cooperation mechanism with Member States that will consist of:

  • A structured, transparent and shared monitoring system based on the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) to measure progress towards each of the 2030 targets; including key performance indicators (KPIs);
  • An annual report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’, in which the Commission will evaluate progress and provide recommendations for actions;
  • Multiannual digital decade strategic roadmaps for each Member State, in which they will outline adopted or planned policies and measures in support of the 2030 targets;
  • A structured annual framework to discuss and address areas of insufficient progress through recommendations and joint commitments between the Commission and the Member States;
  • A mechanism to support the implementation of multi-country projects.

Progress monitoring and the report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’

To ensure Europe is moving swiftly towards the Digital Decade objectives, the proposed governance framework foresees a progress monitoring system based on an enhanced Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). The Commission would first develop projected EU trajectories for each target together with the Member States, which would in turn propose national strategic roadmaps to attain them. Each year, the Commission will submit a report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’ to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union with the aim to:

  • Present measured digital performance against the projected trajectories;
  • Make targeted recommendations to Member States for reaching the 2030 targets, taking national circumstances into account.

The Commission shall review the targets by 2026 to take stock of technological, economic and societal developments.

Multi-country projects

Multi-country projects are large-scale projects that would contribute to achieving the targets for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030 – projects that no single Member State could develop on its own. Such projects will allow Member States to come together and pool resources to build digital capacities in areas that are fundamental for enhancing Europe’s digital sovereignty and for fuelling Europe’s recovery.

The Commission has identified an initial list of multi-country projects, which includes several areas for investment: data infrastructure, low-power processors, 5G communication, high-performance computing, secure quantum communication, public administration, blockchain, digital innovation hubs, and investing in people’s digital skills.

Different targets will accelerate the process of digitalisation and will lead to greater resilience and technological sovereignty by bringing more specialists in the market to work in digital fields, or incentivising various industries to develop digital technologies in Europe.

The annual Report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’ will provide the necessary information to account for developments and identified gaps in Europe’s digital transformation, and update the list of multi-country projects.

Multi-country projects should pool investments from EU funding resources, including from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, as well as from the Member States. Other public and private entities may invest in the projects where appropriate.

The Commission, acting as the multi-country projects accelerator, will help Member States in the identification of their interests in multi-country projects, give guidance on implementation mechanisms and provide assistance in the implementation, in order to ensure wide participation and successful delivery.

The programme provides for a new legal structure, the European Digital Infrastructure Consortium (EDIC), enabling the swift and flexible set-up and implementation of multi-country projects.

Background

The 2030 Digital Compass of March 2021, upon which today’s proposal builds, outlined the European way for the digitalised economy and society, and proposed a set of concrete digital targets in the areas of skills, infrastructures, businesses and public services.

The proposed Path to the Digital Decade is supported by the results of several consultations in which citizens, businesses, public administrations, Member States, industry and organisations shared their views on what is needed for a successful European digital transformation. Moreover, its implementation, including the design of follow-up initiatives, would be supported by discussions in the online forum dedicated to the Digital Compass.

In parallel, the Commission is working on finalising the proposal for a joint ‘Declaration on Digital Principles’ by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission to ensure European values and rights are reflected in the digital space. This will ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of digital opportunities, such as universal access to the internet, algorithms that respect people and a secure and trusted online environment. The annual report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’ will evaluate the implementation of Digital Principles.

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