22 Oct 2020

How to spend it: A digital investment plan for Europe

Digital technologies have proved themselves to be essential for society and citizens during the COVID-19 crisis. As we retreated back into our homes and away from offices, schools, restaurants and large gatherings, digital solutions kept us in touch with what mattered. They are no longer simply “nice to have”.

Many citizens, businesses and public sector institutions have made a huge “digital leap” in the last few months. We have seen years’ worth of digital transformation in a few short months. Yet despite the gradual opening we are now seeing, the economic situation remains dire – the worst recession in decades, possibly centuries.

The investment decisions of today will shape Europe for the next five years, and speed is of essence. For example, before the crisis we knew that 52 per cent of the workforce needed to be reskilled over the next five years due to digitalisation. Now it looks like this must happen in the next 12 months, as millions have been made unemployed or have been placed on government furlough schemes.

The unprecedented common €750 billion stimulus package and 2021-2027 budget present a historic opportunity for Europe. There is a strong consensus that investment in digital technologies must be one of the pillars of the recovery.

Announced in President von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech and endorsed by European leaders, 20 per cent of the new recovery and resilience funding must be spent on digital investments.

What we must do is therefore clear. We must invest in digital to:

  • Make sure we have the data and infrastructure to prevent, track and treat COVID-19 or other diseases in the future
  • Develop our industry into one that is competitive, resilient, green, innovative and secure
  • Accelerate the digital transformation of our public services
  • Decrease our energy consumption
  • Promote inclusion and create good, well-paying jobs in sectors that have a viable future  
  • Make sure that everyone has the skills to get a good job and participate in an increasingly digitised society, regardless of their background
  • Connect rural areas into a digital inclusive society
  • Protect critical digital infrastructure from cyberthreats

The question now is not if, but how.

In this paper we aim to point decision-makers both in Brussels and in the Member States in the right direction. We want to inspire as well as put forward visionary ideas for pan-European projects and member state investments.

In the pages that follow, you will see the types of projects that have the potential to take Europe forward and help it reinvent itself.

As a continent, we are now weakened by the COVID-19 crisis, but if we invest wisely we will emerge as a stronger digital Europe than before.

Hilary Mine, President, DIGITALEUROPE

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director-General, DIGITALEUROPE

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Our resources on How to spend it: A digital investment plan for Europe
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Bridging the urban–rural digital divide
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A digital “Renovation Wave” and a modernised construction sector
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