21 Sep 2022

Why it is time to move digital skills to the top of the EU’s agenda

Executive Summary

As we have pointed out ever since we launched our Manifesto for a Stronger Digital Europe back in 2019, Europe’s goals for new investments and measures on digital will fail to materialise unless workforce and society have appropriate digital competencies.[1] Completing the single market on data to fulfil Treaty goals, for instance, requires digitally prepared talents and citizens that take the opportunities policy creates.

Accelerating progress on the Digital Decade skills targets and bridging the digital divide have become a matter of unique urgency. The Commission and Member States must, together, move the discussion on digital skills and education to the highest level of government and reap the knowledge-sharing and efficiency benefits that come from coordination. They must also deepen partnerships with industry to take immediate action by leveraging existing, successful initiatives.

Time is running out. The EU needs to add 1.2 million ICT specialists to the employment figures every year until 2030 to hit its Digital Decade targets. It similarly needs to make an extra 20% of the EU’s population digitally literate by the same year. These are pressing tasks, especially when today barely more than 50% of EU citizens can conduct basic tasks like downloading an app or purchasing online, and when EU average figures mask substantial differences in technology access among specific groups.

The political push on the topic should translate into:

  • Launching a new ‘’Rapid Training Fund’’ co-financed by the Recovery and Resilience plans of interested countries. It should focus first on cybersecurity upskilling and train immediately 200,000 cyber security experts (the number of experts Europe lacks today). This is key to fulfil labour market demands.
  • Recognise existing partnerships as eligible entities to apply or re-apply for EU funding on digital upskilling or reskilling. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if successful projects already exist and can be ramped up.
  • Carving out enough compulsory curricular time for coding and computational thinking in secondary schools, as Denmark has just done, and make algorithmic thinking a compulsory subject in primary schools.
  • Launching a flagship ‘’Teachers for the Digital Decade’’ initiative to develop a standardised digital competences’ qualification programme for teachers and educators at all levels.
  • Make women in ICT mentorship a key priority in EU-funding programmes such as ERASMUS+ and the Digital Europe Programme.

In our paper we offer more background on these and other recommendations.



[1] Available here

Vincenzo Renda
Director for Single Market & Digital Competitiveness
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