September 28, 2023
The European Union this week published its first annual State of the Digital Decade report, which was more a whinge about investment than a study on the current digital landscape.
The overriding message of the report is that EU member states have a lot of work to do to hit the bloc’s various end-of-decade targets.
Brussels describes the report as “a call to Member States for collective action to address the current investment gaps, accelerate digital transformation in Europe and intensify efforts to reach the objectives of the Digital Decade Policy Programme (DDPP).” Perhaps more accurately, you could say that this first edition covers a lot of wishful thinking but lacks substance.
Nonetheless, there are a few interesting snippets, particularly in the less nebulous areas, like connectivity.
The report reminds us that the EU targets full gigabit coverage by 2030 and 5G networks in all populated areas. As it stands, fibre networks, which are obviously vital for gigabit coverage, reach just 56% of households. 5G coverage fares better at 81% of the population, but this figure drops significantly to 51% in rural areas.
Further, “the deployment of 5G stand-alone networks is lagging and 5G is still falling short in quality with regards to end-users’ expectations and industry needs,” the report states. Indeed, recent figures from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) show that 5G standalone network switch-ons are happening at a pretty slow pace globally, and Europe is certainly not bucking that trend.
The EU adds that 55% of rural households are still not served by any advanced network and 9% are not yet have any fixed network coverage.
It puts the extra investment required to hit those gigabit and 5G coverage targets at €200 billion, urging individual countries to map their own coverage gaps and explore financing options to complement private investment in areas that are not commercially viable. To be exact, the EU report states that additional investment of “up to at least €200 billion” is needed, a figure so hedged as to be effectively meaningless, but we can get an idea of the ballpark total, at least.
Much of the rest of the report reiterates previously announced targets in areas such as digital sovereignty, digitalisation of businesses and public services, and digital skills, and fairly vaguely warns of the risk of not meeting those targets unless the member states pull their thumbs out and invest more.
One key point is that the EU reiterated its aim – first stated two and a half years ago – to double its market share in semiconductors, in value terms, by 2030 from 10%-20% at present. The report pointed to the European Chips Act, which came into force on 21 September, and called on member states to promote national policies and investments to stimulate domestic chip design and manufacturing capabilities.
At risk of reading too much into the wording of the document, which has doubtless been pored over at length by the powers that be in Brussels, it’s worth noting that the report describes the semiconductor market share hike goal as the “current 2030 target,” so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this could change. Indeed, given the rate of progress so far, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if the EU moved the goalposts on that one.
The EU is clearly keen to stick to its 2030 aims, but there is perhaps a hint of doubt in the canned comment supplied by Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.
“The message from our first Digital Decade report is clear: we need to accelerate our efforts to reach our targets by 2030,” he said.
Over to the member states.
About the Author(s)
You May Also Like