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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Monday, 11.12.2023, 04:47

Digital transformation in the EU: the Baltic States are catching up

Eugene Eteris, BC, RSU, Riga/Copenhagen, 21.05.2018.Print version
In the EU’s 2018 Digital Economy & Society Index (DESI) index, the Baltic States’ performance looks pretty good. DESI monitors the EU states’ performance in digital connectivity, digital skills, online activity, the digitisation of businesses and digital public services. DESI-2018 shows that digital connectivity has improved but is still insufficient to address fast socio-economic growth.

According to the Commission, the EU states are getting more “digitalised” and investments in digital economy and society are increasing. However, progress remains insufficient compared with other countries in the world.  

Commissioner for EU digital economy and society underlined that the EU “digital strategy” is based on the member states’ progress in major reforms in, e.g. the European Electronic Code aimed at boosting investments in enhanced connectivity.

Present DESI-2018 demonstrates the EU member states and the Baltics’ efforts in increasing digital skills, in integrating more digital technologies in businesses and public administrations.

DESI helps EU countries identify areas requiring priority investments and action; it is also a key tool when analysing digital in the European Semester, which allows EU countries to discuss their economic and budget plans and monitor progress at specific times throughout the year.

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DESI’s methods

Each set and subset of the DESI’s indicators was given a specific weighting by the EU experts. Connectivity and digital skills ('human capital'), each contribute 25% to the total score. Integration of digital technology to business sector accounts for 20%; and online activities ('use of internet') and digital public services each contribute 15%.

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) is a composite index published every year by the European Commission since 2014, measuring progress of EU countries towards a digital economy and society. It brings together a set of relevant indicators on Europe's current digital policy mix.

The DESI is composed of five principal policy areas which regroup overall 34 indicators:

1. Connectivity, including fixed, fast & mobile broadband with reasonable prices.

2. Human capital, incl. basic and advanced skills & internet use.

3. Use of internet services: citizens’ use of content, online transactions, etc.

4. Digital technology’s integration into business, commerce, trade, etc.

5. Digital public service, including for example e-government and e-health.

Three clusters were created based on the DESI score.

- High performing countries - 9 EU states with the highest DESI score: Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, the UK, Belgium and Estonia.

Medium performing countries - 10 EU states: Spain, Austria, Malta, Lithuania, Germany, Slovenia, Portugal, the Czech Republic, France and Latvia.

- Low performing countries - 9 EU states at the bottom of the list: Slovakia, Cyprus, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania.

As is seen, the three Baltic States are perfuming pretty well…  

Continued progress

During 2017-18, the EU states continued to improve their digital performance and the gap between the most and the least digital countries slightly narrowed (from 36 points to 34 points). Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands scored the highest ratings in DESI-2018 and are among the global leaders in digitalisation. They are followed by Luxembourg, Ireland, the UK, Belgium and Estonia. Ireland, Cyprus and Spain are progressed the most (by more than 15 points) over the last four years. However, some other EU countries still have a long way to go and the EU as a whole needs to improve to be competitive on the global stage.


Table: EU states’ general DESI-2018 performance


The Baltic States’ “general digital performance” is pretty good: Estonia with 60 points (out of 100), Lithuania with over 50 and Latvia with about 50 points. 

More information in: Latest statistics on ICT sector and its R&D investment; and 18.05.2018

Most of the Baltic Sea Region’s states, like Denmark, Sweden, Finland, as well as the Netherlands have the most advanced digital economies (with about 70% coverage), followed by Luxembourg, Ireland, the UK, Belgium and Estonia (about 60%). Most progressive over last 4 years have been Ireland, Cyprus and Spain (by more than 15 points); the lowest increase in digital performance was recorded in Greece (below 10 points).

Lithuania is at the level of 58% and Latvia at about 50 per cent.


Table: EU states’ performance on 5 DESI’s index dimensions



Regarding connectivity to broadband networks, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark are showing the highest overall connectivity levels.

Fixed broadband is available to 97% of Europeans, and 80% of European homes are covered by fast broadband (at least 30 Mbps). Ultrafast connectivity - measured for the first time by DESI (at least 100 Mbps) - is available to 58% of Europeans.

4G mobile networks cover on average 91% of the EU's population, measured as the average of each mobile telecom operator's coverage within each country.

75% of European homes subscribe to fixed broadband, and one third of all homes have at least 30 Mbps. The results also show that having an ultrafast broadband connection is increasingly more common. 15% of homes subscribe to ultrafast broadband, which is twice as high as two years ago.

The three Baltic States are positioned quite well, i.e. somewhere in the middle with about 60+ percentage.

Regarding the Human Capital dimension, 81% of Europeans go online regularly (at least once a week). This is 2 percentage points more than in the previous year. However, 43% of Europeans still do not have basic digital skills. Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden have the highest scores in this dimension.

The results show that the EU improved slightly in the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates. While only 18.4 out of 1000 people between 20 and 29 years old graduated in STEM in 2013, this increased to 19.1 in 2015. Moreover, there were 8.2 million ICT specialists in the EU in 2016, growing from 7.3 million 3 years earlier.

In this DESI dimension, Estonia is placed higher (with over 60%) compared to Lithuania with 50% and Latvia with over 40%.

The percentage of internet users engaging in various online activities has overall slightly increased in comparison to the DESI 2017 results. 72% of internet users read news online, 46% make video or audio calls, 65%, use social networks, 68% shop online and 61% use online banking.

Corresponding figures for the 3 Baltic States show that Estonia is placed higher (with over 60% Users) compared to about 55% for both Lithuania and Latvia.

Integration of digital technology into businesses and development is constantly increasing: the process includes the use of a business software for electronic information sharing (from 26% in 2013 to 34% of enterprises in 2017), sending electronic invoices (from 10% in 2013 to 18% of enterprises in 2016) or using social media to engage with customers and partners (from 15% in 2013 to 21% of enterprises in 2017). This trend is most advanced in Denmark, Finland and Ireland.

E-commerce by SMEs also grew slightly (from 14% in 2013 to 17% of SMEs in 2017). Nevertheless, less than a half of the companies are trading online, i.e. selling to another EU state while the majority operates only within their country.

For the 3 Baltic States the situation in Lithuania is much better (with about 50%) than in Estonia with about 40% and Latvia with less than 30%. 

The Digital Public Services dimension measures the digitisation of public services, focusing on e-government and e-health. Modernisation and digitisation of public services can lead to efficiency gains for the public administration, citizens and businesses. The European champions in Digital Public Services are Finland, Estonia and Denmark.

The Commission also compared –for the second time - the EU states’ digital performance with 15 non-EU countries through the so-called “international DESI, or I-DESI. The comparison includes such states as Australia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Russia, Turkey, the United States, etc.  See:


Table: EU-28 digital performance comparison with the outside world

The comparison shows that the top four EU countries (Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands) are among the global leaders. They are just behind Korea and have higher scores than the United States and Japan. At the same time, however, the comparison shows that the EU's average in digital performance is significantly lower. I-DESI includes the same five dimensions as the DESI, but it is built on a slightly different set of indicators than DESI as some DESI indicators were not available in non-EU countries. As a result, the I-DESI rankings and scores are slightly different to those of the DESI.

There have been rather limited changes in 2018 in the EU states’ performance compared to DESI in 2017. For example, in connectivity, the ultrafast broadband sub-dimension was added measuring fast broadband coverage (combining fiber and cable Docsis 3.0., measured as the percentage of homes) and Ultrafast Broadband Take-up (percentage of homes subscribing to at least 100 Mbps).

The use of internet services and the ICT integration dimensions were not affected by any change.

As to the digital public services, e-health was re-introduced as a sub-dimension with one indicator measuring the percentage of people who used health and care services provided online.

Under e-government a new indicator was added on digital public services for businesses.

More information in the following web-links: -Press Release; - Country profiles; - Factsheet: Digital Single Market for benefits of all Europeans; - Factsheet: Data Economy for all Europeans

Creating a Digital Single Market – European Commission action since 2015.

On DESIEU in:  

Further steps to complete EU Digital Single Market

Since the launch of the Digital Single Market strategy in May 2015, the Commission has delivered proposals for all 29 initiatives identified as essential for a functional Digital Single Market. The benefits are already being enjoyed by citizens, for instance through a four-fold increase in data use when travelling to other EU states thanks to the abolition of roaming charges. Altogether the Digital Single Market could contribute €415 billion per year to the member states economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

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In particular, the Commission is inviting EU leaders to discuss and give their strategic orientation with a view to:

·         Mobilising the necessary public and private investments to deploy artificial intelligence, 5G connectivity networks, high-performance computing.

·         Ensuring the adoption of the Regulation on free flow of non-personal data during 2018.

·         The Electronic Communications Code, aiming at boosting investment in high-speed and high-quality networks across the EU, should also be finalised during summer 2018.

·         Helping EU states equip citizens with the digital skills they will need in modern digital economy and society.

More generally, all other pending Digital Single Market proposals should be agreed by the end of 2018; these include, for instance, the modernisation of EU copyright rules to protect creators online better and facilitate the access to European works across borders.

The EU has already put an end to mobile roaming charges in the EU and allowed Europeans to travel across the EU with their online subscriptions for films, TV series, video games, music, sport programmes or e-books.

Since 9 May 2018, the EU states have to apply the first EU-wide legislation on cybersecurity – the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS Directive) – which will be completed by a wide-ranging set of measures for stronger cybersecurity in the EU. This includes a proposal for an EU Cybersecurity Agency to assist Member States in dealing with cyber-attacks, as well as a new European certification scheme that will ensure that products and services in the digital world are safe to use. As of December 2018, thanks to new rules against unjustified geoblocking, consumers will no longer face barriers when buying products or services online within the EU. For businesses, this means more legal certainty to operate cross-border.

In April 2018, the Commission delivered all the remaining Digital Single Market actions and notably presented a European approach for the future of artificial intelligence, measures to tackle disinformation online, including an EU-wide Code of Practice on disinformation, as well as conditions for fairness and transparency in the online platforms economy designed to lead to an innovation-friendly environment for EU businesses.

In parallel, the General Data Protection Regulation was adopted in December 2015 with a two-year transition period to allow Member States and their authorities to be fully ready when it enters into application on 25 May 2018. In January 2018, the Commission also published guidelines to facilitate the application of the new data protection rules across the EU.

The Web Accessibility Directive entered into force on 22 December 2016. It aims to ensure that public sector bodies make websites and mobile applications more accessible. It sets common accessibility requirements.

The European Commission supports the uniform implementation of the Directive in the member states; for this the Commission intends to adopt implementing acts on:

·         a model accessibility statement;

·         a harmonised methodology to monitor public sector bodies websites and mobile applications and how the EU states shall report on the outcome of the monitoring to the Commission.

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More information in the following web links: -Factsheet: Digital Single Market for all Europeans; - Factsheet: Timeline - Digital Single Market, European Commission actions since 2015; - Factsheet: Stronger privacy rules for electronic communications; - Communication on Completing a trusted Digital Single Market for all.

General reference:

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