Originally posted on Feb 23rd, 2017 for UCC Express.


Every year, the European Commission, the EC,  publishes reports, studies and scores for how Europe is progressing as part of their Digital Agenda, which was first outlined in 2010. Even though 250 million Europeans use the Internet daily there are still millions of them that have never used the Internet at all! As more daily tasks are carried out online, everyone needs enhanced digital skills to participate fully in society. The digital economy also presents opportunities — if citizens are ready to take them. The number of jobs that require information and communications technology (ICT) skills is expected to rise by 16 million by 2020.

We’re getting to that time of year again where the EC publishes updates to the digital scorecard for all of Europe but how far have they come in achieving their goals? Taking a look back at the reports from last year, there are some interesting statistics that have emerged, and some happy surprises to celebrate.

The Digital Scoreboard provides a very in-depth look into the broadband coverage throughout the continent and found that 71% of us have ready access to high speed broadband overall, and 28% of those in more rural areas, which is a massive increase on the 12% overall figure collected in 2011. Reports also indicated that 72% of homes are subscribed to a fixed broadband connection, with one third of those having a high-speed connection. While one third may feel underwhelming, it may be because the commission found that speed has grown 4 times since 2011 and has had to reevaluate what it considers high-speed.

With regards to computer literacy when it comes to the internet, in the 2015/2016 year, it was found that 65 million Europeans went online for the first time. Although there are 60,000,000 more who still have never used the internet, it may only be another year before everyone’s had the opportunity and confidence to integrate the internet into their every-day lives.

Government services are also a large driving force within the Digital Agenda and, with public services increasingly moving towards an online platform, it was a delight to see that 50% of Europeans who needed the use of government services were able to interact with them online instead of in-person. Ireland saw the benefits of this particular goal this year as we saw most of the Revenue services move online to a central portal for PAYE Anytime, online tax submission and online tax back claims.

The internet isn’t always a safe place to be and most of us will be aware of the dangers but, thankfully, only 26% of Europeans received fraudulent messages, payments, personal information breaches or financial loss last year. As we move more into an always-online lifestyle, it’s vital for our personal safety that we learn about how to protect ourselves and our information online. Although only 29% of us refrain from posting personal or sensitive information on social media, 65% of us are aware of how our actions are tracked and monitored via things like cookies and session data and, furthermore, 50% of those take active measures to prevent being tracked online.

An important part of any student’s life nowadays is online shopping and eCommerce. Whether you’ve set up your own shop or are always on the lookout for H&M’s latest offers, you’ll be delighted to hear that 53% of European citizens shop online and that 70% of them have had positive experiences doing so. Only 17% of EU companies sell online (and even less cross-border) but the European Commission seems set to increase this number significantly before 2020 to meet the growing demand of online shoppers.

As we all gear ourselves towards entering the workforce, it’s good to know that over 1 million IT-related jobs were created last year and, for those budding entrepreneurs, only 3 out of every 10 workers have low or no digital skills.

Where does Ireland figure into all of this though? I’ve been mentioning the Digital Scoreboard throughout this and you’re probably wondering where we rank in the grand scheme of things. Fun fact: we rank 8th overall according to the European Commission.

The EC reports show that 96% of Irish homes are covered by access to high speed broadband, which is up significantly from our 80% figure in 2014. In terms of internet usage, we rank 14th in Europe and this is a travesty. For all our talk of Netflix and Chill, only 68% of us are watching video on demand, and only 66% of us are sharing what we ate for breakfast on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace and Friendster!

Okay, so those figures are actually pretty high and we should definitely be proud. Ranking 8th in Europe out of all 51 countries is a major achievement for the Irish economy. The next time you settle down with a half-price B&J in your fluffy pajamas to watch the latest season of Ru Paul, remember that you are personally contributing to a digital market on a continental scale.

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