Better digital skills for a better Europe

To ensure a more resilient and competitive European digital ecosystem, digital skills at all levels must be boosted across the region. MEP Henna Virkkunen calls for increased investment in the field

By Henna Virkkunen

Henna Virkkunen (EPP, FI)

05 Apr 2024

Digitalisation has become an integral part of our daily lives. Basic digital skills are needed for studying, working, finding information, accessing online public services and communication. Yet according to the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), four out of 10 adults lack basic digital skills, and just one in six ICT specialists are women. The Commission has set a target for 70 per cent of European adults to have basic digital skills by 2025. In a similar vein, the European Union’s Digital Decade target entails that 80 per cent of the EU population be equipped with at least basic digital skills by 2030. This lack of digital skills inevitably leaves part of the population outside of the reach of digital services and leads to the exposure to new kinds of threats. Furthermore, digital skills are the key to achieving a successful green and digital transition.

My native Finland is one of the leading member states in the development of digitalisation, and many of the country’s public services are provided online. Finland has already reached the Digital Decade target of 80 per cent of the population having at least basic digital skills. The divide in digital skillsets, however, remains wide. Work remains to be done – in particular, in increasing the percentage of ICT specialists in employment and the share of ICT graduates.

In addition to improving digital skills, Europe is in great need of expertise in the field of cybersecurity. The EU is facing a shortage of cybersecurity professionals. In 2022, the need of cybersecurity workforce in the EU was estimated at 883,000 professionals. At the same time, the shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the EU fluctuated between 260,000 and 500,000. Cybersecurity experts are needed to tackle growing cyber-attacks and the emerging threat landscape, to build resilience and to support Europe’s growth and competitiveness.

According to the Digital Economy and Society Index, four out of 10 adults lack basic digital skills

To address this issue, the Commission adopted a communication on a Cybersecurity Skills Academy in 2023, with the aim of closing the talent gap by gathering education and training opportunities from public and private entities from European and national levels into one platform. The two Council recommendations on the key enabling factors for successful digital education and training, and on improving the provision of digital skills in education and training, call the member states to guarantee universal access to high-quality digital education and training, with a view of reducing the digital divide. This is a welcome step in the right direction.

The best way to tackle the evolving cybersecurity threat landscape and respond to emerging threats is to develop better cybersecurity skills. Reaching a higher level of cybersecurity preparedness concerns all sectors of society and involves everyone. Reskilling and upskilling, as well as continuous, life-long learning, should be encouraged.

Europe needs to develop a high performing digital ecosystem over the long term, guarantee universal access to digital education, and develop an inclusive and quality ecosystem that helps address the digital divide. Investments in digital infrastructure and digital equipment are crucial. This contributes to a more resilient and competitive Europe.

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