Digital Literacy has to be a foundation for everyone.
—Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) shows that four out of ten adults in the EU lack basic digital skills. More than 70% of business report the lack of staff with adequate digital skills as an obstacle to investment. Europe also faces a shortage of digital experts who can develop cutting-edge technologies for the benefit of all citizens. For example, there are 500,000 unfilled positions in big data and analytics and 300,000 vacant positions for cybersecurity experts.
New profiles are needed at the intersection of advanced digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and cloud computing. To succeed globally, drive economic growth and wider social progress, Europe needs both men and women who can use and develop cutting-edge technologies, as well as a digitally skilled population.
The European Commission is meeting challenge together with national, regional and local authorities, industry, educational institutions and non-profit organisations.
It has set targets in the Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade to ensure that a minimum of 80% of the EU population has basic digital skills by 2030. The European Skills Agenda and the Digital Action Plan set targets to ensure that the level of 13-14 year olds who underperform in computing and digital literacy is reduced from 30% (2019) to 15% in 2030.
To meet these targets and to prepare for a digital future, the European Commission has a wide variety of projects and strategies aimed at helping Member States and other actors to improve the level of digital skills across the European Union.
Main digital skills initiatives
- The Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition tackles the digital skills gap at European and national level. It brings together organisations such as national authorities, non-profit organisations, companies, business associations, and education providers who work together to increase the digital skills and competences in the population and the labour force, among digital experts and in the education system. The Commission also encourages member organisations to take action reduce the digital skills gap in Europe. At present, these actions, visible on the Pledge Viewer, have trained more than 11 million people.
- 25 National Digital Skills and Jobs Coalitions bring together stakeholders at a local level to work on national challenges.
- Initiatives put in place at EU and national levels will be showcased and disseminated via the European Digital Skills and Jobs Platform. This will be a one-stop-shop for digital skills training, funding and best practices for students, citizens and working people.
- EU Code Week is a grassroots initiative enacted by a network of dedicated volunteers, and supported by the Commission and Ministries of Education to bring computational thinking, coding, computer science, and digital skills to as many people as possible in Europe and around the world. The movement has trained more than 15 million young people, of which half were girls, over the last 8 years.
- The Digital Opportunity Traineeship programme helps university students to get hands-on-training in advanced digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity or data science. More than 12,000 students participated in the first two years of the programme, which is run through Erasmus+.
EU financial support for digital skills development
The instruments put in place at EU level for the budget 2021-2027 provide major opportunities for Member States to support a sustainable development of digital skills.
- The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is an unprecedented one-off programme of the Commission to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty percent of its funds must be spent on the digital transition and transformation of Member States, including on digital skills. The Commission also encourages Member States to invest in the ‘Upskilling & reskilling’ Flagship and integrate digital skills and vocational training in their education systems. Financial support will be at the disposal of Member States, as soon as their RRF plans are adopted in 2021.
- The Digital Europe Programme is a new instrument to fund European strategic digital capacities and the deployment of digital technologies. Promoting digital skills is a core element of this new funding. It will provide training opportunities for future experts in key capacity areas like data, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, as well as focusing on the upskilling and reskilling of the existing workforce through training following the latest technology. The first calls for advanced training and education programmes in specialised digital areas will be launched in the first quarter of 2021.