Masters of Digital 2021: Alarming lack of transparency in national COVID recovery spending plan process
DIGITALEUROPE’s annual flagship conference ‘Masters of Digital’ kicks off today, with a focus on digital’s role in the post-COVID recovery. EU Member States agreed to spend 20% of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) on digital investments. Three months before the deadline for submission, only 12 plans have been made public.
According to DIGITALEUROPE’s snapshot of the current draft plans as of 29 January 2021:
In 15 Member States no draft plan has been published for public scrutiny.
The 12 plans we have seen vary wildly in terms of structure, scope and format.
The good news is Member States appear to be focused on the 20% digital spending target, although sometimes it is difficult to tell because they lack detail and clarity.
The European Commission should set up a central repository to view the draft plans.
In response, Director-General of DIGITALEUROPE Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl said:
“We are three months from the deadline to submit national spending plans and in many Member States there is an alarming lack of transparency in the process.
The pan-European RRF stimulus fund is the first of its kind and Member States should set a good example, seeking the views and expertise of all interested stakeholders, not least industry. It is difficult to do this without a text to look at and an open dialogue.
Digital transformation depends on collaboration between public and private sector, it is a common challenge and we must have a common vision of a stronger digital Europe.
Digital investment depends on private sector expertise much more than traditional public spending, and input from the private sector will be vital to get them off the ground. This is important because some Member States have a poor record in spending EU funds.
Of the plans we have seen, there are some standout positive examples such as in Spain and Portugal. They have clear targets and KPIs. In general, I’m also glad to see Member States making a significant effort to reach the 20% digital target and the 37% target for climate spending, although more detail and clarity are needed.”
In October 2020 DIGITALEUROPE published its Digital Investment Plan for Europe, which puts forward 10 investment ideas that will make Europe more competitive and innovative, greener, and more resilient. Underpinning these 10 pan-European priorities are 35 project case studies from our members across the EU.
11 of the plans have been submitted to the Commission – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. 10 of which are public (Croatia is coming soon).
A further two have been made public without being submitted – Italy & Romania.
15 plans are not publicly available, although some public consultations are underway, such as in Ireland.
Three are being affected by changes in government – Italy, the Netherlands and Lithuania.
The plans are wildly different in scope and format, so it is unclear in some cases how much and what exactly is being spent on digital, but most are making an effort to reach 20%:
Sometimes the money has been added to existing national development plans, without a public debate or dialogue with the private sector, whereas others are completely new plans.
Certain Member States are focusing on the how to spend the grants part of the RRF facility, with no plans for the loan part.
Some plans draw from both RRF funds and broader EU budget programmes, which which have different spending horizons
Connectivity and the digitalisation of the public sector are key themes across all 12 public plans.
Strong focus on internet connectivity in Central and Eastern Europe.
France focused on boosting its start-up scene;
Germany focused on new technologies – 5G, quantum, AI.