The European Commission (EC) Digital Agenda Europe (DAE) – Progress report for 2013
In general, the results across the EU are positive.
Internet usage is increasing rapidly, an now stands at 72%, up from 60%. Progress has been even faster among disadvantaged groups.
Online shopping is doing well, too, arriving at 47% and 10 points up from the start of the DAE.
High-speed broadband is now available to 62% of the population, more than twice the 29% we had in 2010. Still, progress so far has been heavily concentrated in urban areas. Given the limited advancement in rural areas, it is thus too early to judge whether the 2020 broadband targets will be reached.
However, there are a few areas where progress is insufficient.
eGovernment take-up by citizens only added four points over four years, is growing more slowly than other online applications and is indeed stagnating in a number of countries. Clearly, neither the potential savings in administration costs nor the potential benefits to citizens are fully exploited.
A mere 14% of SMEs use the Internet as a sales channel, only two points up in four years. With such low rates, eCommerce can only be very limited tool for SMEs to grow and create jobs.
Public support for R&D in ICT is well below the annual growth needed to achieve a targeted doubling by 2020; budget deficit reductions have taken their toll.
Finally, cross-border shopping is growing only slowly.
Next Generation Access
Next Generation Access coverage: Fast broadband technologies capable of providing at least 30 Mbps are available to an average of 64% of the EU population, up from 54% a year ago.
In the UK access is available to over 92% of the population, up from 70% in 2012, well above the EU average and one of the larger leaps of progress of the member states.
Among the Next Generation Access technologies Docsis 3.0 for cable has the highest coverage (42%) followed by VDSL (32%) and FTTP (15%).
There are a number of Member states which have already coverage of 90% of homes or more. Most of these have cable and telecom networks competing for customers.
However, rural areas are lagging behind: only 16% of households are covered.
Every European Citizen Digital: consistent progress
Regular Internet use in the EU has increased by 11 percentage points since the launch of the Digital Agenda, from just above 60% to 72%. Although growth is slowing somewhat, on current trends the target of 75% will be reached by 2015.
The UK is ranked 6thand above the EU average, and achieved and increase of approx. 10% between 2009 and 2013, taking percentage of the population use the Internet at least once a week to approx. 87%
Progress has been largest in countries with a low starting level, especially in Greece, Romania, Ireland, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Croatia. Nevertheless, even Luxemburg has managed to add 10 pp in four years from a very high baseline. Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Luxemburg have now crossed the 90pp threshold, showing that “Every European Digital” is possible in the not-so-distant future.
Conversely, the share of the population which has never used the Internet has declined by 10 points to reach 20%, making the achievement of the target in 2015 possible but not yet assured.
Frequent Internet usage, i.e. connecting at least daily, has risen by 14pp (as opposed to 11pp at least weekly for regular Internet usage), indicating a trend among regular users to more frequent use
Progress has been especially strong for disadvantaged groups, among which regular Internet use has now reached 57%, up from 41% four years ago. On current trends, this target of 60% will be reached even before 2015.
Online shopping is growing, but less so cross-border
The proportion of online shoppers continues to grow, up more than 10 points over the period 2009-2013 to 47% of citizens, advancing in a close parallel with the rate of Internet use.
The target of 50% by 2015 is likely to be achieved. While there appears to be no overall relationship between the rate of online shoppers in a country and the rate of increase in this rate over the period observed, the countries with the lowest rates of online shoppers (Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Estonia) have also seen least progress in increasing rates.
Cross-border online shopping has also increased somewhat over this period, up to 12% in 2013 (+4% over 2009), but this pace is too slow to achieve the target of 20% by 2015. As could be expected, smaller member states have higher rates of cross-border shopping. However, they also exhibit higher growth. In Poland only 9% of online shoppers purchased cross-border, the lowest share of all member states by far.
SMEs are hardly exploiting the Internet for sales
The share of European SMEs selling online is growing at a glacial pace, reaching 14% in 2012, compared to a DAE baseline of 12%. Even in the best performing countries increases are marginal, and only the UK, the Czech Republic and Slovakia register rises of 5% and more. On current trends, not a single member state will even come close to achieving the EU average target of 33% by 2015.
The UK SME’s ranked 8thin of all member states with approximately 18% online sales >=1% of turnover and approx. 42% of online purchases >= 1% of turnover.
The share of SMEs purchasing online is generally much higher, and the EU average of 26% is much closer to the target. This relative success is partly due to a much higher starting point. Also, it is easy to purchase online (a credit card number is sufficient), but difficult to sell (a platform needs to be set up, with payment and delivery mechanism).
eGovernment: use by citizens increases, but too slowly
The use of eGovernment services by citizens has advanced over the last four years, but the most recent data indicates progress which is somewhat slower than the trajectory of the first years. As a result, overall progress of only four percentage points over four years is insufficient to achieve the 2015 target of 50%.
There has been considerable progress in a number of countries, but very slow change or even decrease in several large member states (Italy, Poland, United Kingdom, Germany) means that the EU average has moved with limited speed.
The variation of eGovernment uptake is much larger than for most other indicators. Even considering Romania as an outlier, the best-to-worst ratio of 4 is twice as high as for Internet use.
The share of citizens returning filled forms among those using eGovernment services is very stable across the EU at 50%, a share which is roughly valid for most countries as well. The UK comes in just under the EU member state average rank 14th
Among the key cross border public services which have been identified in the Connecting Europe Facility Guidelines, electronic ID, electronic signature, electronic delivery and electronic invoicing will be implemented in 2014.
Public R&D for ICT has stopped growing
After increasing for several years, in 2011 public R&D in ICT had managed to increase despite a fall in total public R&D. In 2012, it has followed the overall decrease and went down by 2.5%, a bit faster than the overall decline.
The target of doubling public R&D by 2020 requires an annual growth rate of 5.5%. Already last year actual performance was below the necessary trend line; now the gap is about 20%.