Back on time, the awaited 2018 edition of the DESI, Digital Economy and Society Index, 2018 report, which highlights the state of the art in terms of the digitization of Europe and of individual EU member countries. Back on time and a little less awaited is the fourth-last position of Italy, which has remained blocked for some years now in its 25th position, despite having recorded a small improvement overall which has not, however, affected the general classification.
Connectivity, human capital and digital skills, use of Internet services, digitization of businesses and e-commerce, and digital public services are the 5 macro themes analyzed, among which there are some positive results at national level in Italy on e-Government. Backward step in connectivity (from 25th last year to 26th), human capital (from 24th to 25th) and integration of digital technologies (from 19th to 20th). Unchanged are the penultimate place in use of the Internet and the 19th in digital public services. A few, weak positive signals: among these there are those referring to cover of NGA, recovering from the 23rd place of 2016 to the 13th of 2017, and on the Open Data front, where Italy has leapt 11 places towards the top of the classification thus taking it above the EU average, unlike most other indicators where it is also well below the average value.
DESI(re) for Open Data?
When we talk about the availability of data in open format, DESI says that all EU Member States have improved their scores, with Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Finland having exceeded 90% in index scores and Latvia and Malta recording the most significant progress with +350% for the former and +120% for the latter compared with 2016.
The index is based mainly on two indicators of “maturity”: the predisposition to open data, measured on the presence of policies in place, central coordination and presence of guidelines for publication, and accessibility of data understood as reusability, readability and availability of Open Data.
And digital public services?
If we talk about e-Government, DESI reports that Italy is moving slowly, with an above average availability of services, but a very low number of users that should use them, positioning Italy in last place in the classification among EU countries. An indicator of the probable poor usability and insufficient knowledge of the public digital services available. Positive numbers for digital health services, for which Italy is in eighth place among Member States, with 16 out of 21 Italian regions that have adopted the electronic health record, “although only a minority use it for all health services,” according to the report.
Providing a good example in Europe are Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Lithuania, which have more than 80% of Internet users accessing online portals and public services. 14 Member States have an overall index above the European average while Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece and Germany have an index that falls below 40%.
Neither is the Public Digital Identity System (SPID), the electronic identity system compliant with eIDAS regulations – doing well: it remains blocked at just 2.2 million users against a goal set at 10 million at the end of 2017.
Digital businesses doing better?
Despite the progress of Italian businesses on the integration of digital technologies front, Italy has dropped from 19th to 20th place due to the faster evolution of other EU member countries. Italian companies show above average indices for the use of e-Business solutions such as electronic information exchange and RFID.
If we talk about e-Commerce, there has been an increase in the percentage of SMEs dedicated to online sales activities, also at a transnational level, but with a decline in electronic sales.
The DESI report is hopeful about the Business 4.0 plan, for which tax deductions on investments, related to Industry 4.0, in capital goods, software, machinery and industrial equipment have been extended until the end of 2018 and which – thanks to the 18 poles of digital innovation (Digital Innovation Hubs or DIH) activated and the “Competence Centers” which are expected to be activated in 2018 – should act as accelerators.
Digital skills? No, thank you
As recorded in past years, the lack of digital skills acts as ballast. If we talk about human capital, which covers digital inclusion and skills, Italy has even dropped one place compared with 2016. The number of Internet users is stable, ICT specialists have slightly increased (from 2.5% to 2.6%) and graduates in scientific subjects (STEM) fell from 1.4% to 1.3% in 2017.
The various initiatives in favor of the diffusion of digital culture implemented in Italy and mentioned in the report were not evidently enough to move already low indices even a little.
“Italy still does not have a comprehensive digital skills strategy. This has a negative impact on parts of the population such as the elderly and inactive people, who are not targeted by other existing digital skills policies“.
These words from the report leave little room for interpretation.