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Donnerstag, 15.04.2021
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The European Commission took the lead in the digitalization drive in releasing on March 9 an official plan, “2030 Digital Compass: The European Way for the Digital Decade.”

The document sets out four cardinal points with clear objectives that should be achieved by 2030:

  • Build a digitally skilled population and highly skilled digital professionals. The plan calls for at least 80 percent of all European Union adults to have basic digital skills. There should be 20 million employed ICT specialists in the EU compared to 7.8 million in 2019.

  • Build secure and sustainable digital infrastructures. All EU households should have gigabit connectivity compared to 59 percent in 2020, and all populated areas will be covered by 5G, up from 14 percent in 2021; EU should produce cutting-edge sustainable semiconductors representing at least 20 percent of world production in value, doubling from 10 percent in 2020; Europe should build 10,000 climate-neutral, highly secure edge nodes allowing edge computing that can distribute data with low-latency to users; and EU should have its first cutting edge quantum-accelerated computer.

  • Achieve digital transformation of businesses. The plan targets 75 percent of EU companies to use cloud-computing services, big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI). It targets more than 90 percent of European SMEs to reach at least a basic level of digital intensity, compared to 61 percent in 2019. It envisions about 250 unicorns (startups with $1 billion in value) in the EU, a 100-percent increase compared to 2021.

  • Digitalize public services. The plan looks for all critical public services to be available online by 2030; all medical records online and citizens will have access to their e-medical records, and 80 percent of citizens should use a digital ID solution.

To ensure the success of this project, the EU has promised to fund 20 percent of the expenditure with the euro 672.5-billion Recovery and Resilience Facility, in addition to the digital component of the 2021-2027 European budget.

The setting up of long-term numerical targets with adequate funding commitment is unusual nowadays. A sort of national industrial policy on a larger community-wide scale, it highlights the importance that the EU attaches to the role of digitalization in its future.

An excellent national digitalization process starts with a country educating enough digitally-savvy talents to convert existing business processes or develop new-use cases into a digital form that computers can manipulate. The processed information will then be optimized by tools such as AI and execute the desired outcome. There are essential supporting physical infrastructures such as good telecommunications networks, cloud and edge computing facilities to support the entire process. The objectives stated in the EU plan indicate what kind of outcome a developed country will look for in its digitalization drive.

The EU objective is also relevant to the developing countries aspiring to participate in the inevitable global drive toward digitalization. While they cannot produce advanced semiconductors or quantum computers, they can undoubtedly train more digitally-savvy students and use local talents to develop e-government and digitize their local business processes. The economic efficiency gain is quick, and cash flow benefits to developing countries build the virtuous economic development cycle.

In digital infrastructure, one should note that its cost has been dropping and comparing digital infrastructure build-up to traditional infrastructures such as ports, roads and airports. They are smaller ticket items, and the cash flow cycle is shorter. Besides, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the digitalization urgency in today’s world. The challenge is now a reorientation in development thinking and priority. The digitalization effort is a whole-society effort, and only the government can effectively orchestrate the coordination and provide the necessary supporting resources. The EU case highlights this point.

The European Union has declared the 2020s to be the digital decade, and keen observers will surely agree with the EU’s assessment. The challenge ahead is how developing countries like the Philippines will join the crusade.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlights the importance of digital tools in keeping everyday economic and social life running regularly at the time of crisis. The connectivity allows us to work from home (WFH), keep schooling on by remote learning, sustain essential commodities flowing by e-commerce and make social interaction possible through meeting tools such as Zoom, GoogleMeet, MicrosoftTeams, etc..

Many countries experienced varying degrees of social and economic paralysis as their current digitization state has many issues in the face of pandemic disruption. The problems range from a low digitally-savvy population, imperfect business process digitization, digital inequalities hurting vulnerable groups and inadequate digital broadband infrastructure required for seamless information transmission.

The experience prompts calls for new investment focus on digitalization to rebuild. The objective is to capture the more connected and automated post-Covid-19 world’s economic opportunities and address the digital divide inequalities.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Dr. Henry Chan

Quelle/Source: The Manila Times, 14.03.2021

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