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DESI and the benefits of a digital society

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) was created by the EU to measure digital progress across its Member States.

It measures five important aspects of digitalisation: connectivity, human capital (digital skills), use of internet services, integration of digital technology (focusing on businesses) and digital public services.

Digitalisation can accelerate economic recovery and maximise benefits for all European citizens. It gives children access to more learning opportunities, and adults new or better jobs – both at home and in the office. It can help to address loneliness and isolation, especially for the elderly and vulnerable communities. Digital progress will enable better road safety and smarter healthcare, while protecting our environment.

The latest DESI report showed some progress, but many countries are still only improving very slowly, and even the best performers have yet to achieve an ambitious level of digitalisation – even world-leading digital countries, such as Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, struggle to reach a score of more than 70.

90 for 27

Achieving a DESI score of 90 out of 100 for all 27 EU Member States would be a clear sign that Europe has unlocked digitalisation’s many benefits for all its citizens. We would see sustainable economic growth through greater output and more productivity, as well as knock-on benefits such as enhanced quality of living, health, and personal safety for citizens, a more resilient society and economy, and a more inclusive society.

A recent Deloitte report, commissioned by Vodafone, highlights the economic impact of improvements in DESI performance, specifically:

  • A 10% increase in the DESI score is associated with a 0.65% higher GDP per capita. This means that the relative impact is greater for countries starting from a lower digital development base, and that digital growth may also play a role in accelerating the growth of smaller economies.
  • A 7.2% increase in GDP per capita if all EU Member States score 90 on the DESI by 2027. The European Union is already focusing its once-in-a-generation recovery package on driving digital and green investments. Ensuring the funds are linked to clear measurement of digitalisation progress and impact, via the DESI, would deliver a much-needed digital and economic convergence across Member States.

It is clear that under the right conditions, a comprehensive, digital ecosystem-focused investment plan over the next seven years can help Europe build back better, creating the foundation for a growing Europe that maximises benefits for all its citizens.

Realising a digitally enabled Europe

The opportunity for us to realise the benefits of a digitally enabled Europe is now – and this is something that is supported by citizens across Europe. According to the Vodafone Institute, three quarters of Europeans believe digital public services, digital skills and broadband internet access are important aspects of the recovery.

At Vodafone, we are already working hard across Europe to support the 90 for 27 mission. For example, in 2020, we began a long-term partnership with Friends of Europe to start the discussions and spark the necessary actions across Europe. This means running debates and gathering the views of MEPs, businesses, civic leaders and citizens to craft policy recommendations. 

Friends of Europe has already completed a focus group study of citizen experiences of technology during lockdown. They have also brought together policymakers to discuss creative ways to shrink the digital divide, enhance digital skills and harness the power of connectivity for social gain. This really is just a snapshot of Vodafone’s commitment to a digitally enabled recovery in Europe. Visit Vodafone’s Social Contract for more, inspiring examples of what Vodafone and our operating companies are doing to support a digitalisation transformation.