Europe’s south, east, lagging on digital connectivity

Digital development in Europe remains uneven. [Dan Century/Flickr]

The Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal and Spain are flagging in the digital economy compared with their northern European counterparts, according to an index of global connectivity conducted by Chinese-headquartered tech company Huawei.

The survey shows Europe’s south and eastern flanks struggling to maintain their footing in the digital economy as the EU slips behind China in R&D spending.

Huawei’s 2015 Global Connectivity Index (GCI) benchmarked 50 economies in terms of connectivity, IT usage, and digital transformation.

>>Read: How can Europe bridge its digital divide?

There are four components to the GCI: supply for ICT products and services; demand by users; the experience of end users and organisations, and potential, which uses a set of indicators that point toward future development of the digital economy.

Each component contains a collection of data indicators. For example, supply measures national investment in cloud service providers and ICT, and the extent of 3G coverage; experience measures fixed/mobile broadband affordability, download speeds and social network users.

The US ranked highest among surveyed countries, on the strength of robust supply and demand of ICT services, with Sweden, Singapore, Switzerland, and the UK rounding out the top five.

Kevin Zhang, president of Huawei marketing, said: “The Global Connectivity Index is not merely a ranking of countries. We see it as a platform to partner with policymakers and enterprise leaders to identify, harness, and create new digital economy opportunities with the aim of building a Better Connected World.”

>>Read: EU attempts to bridge e-skills gap between north and south

“Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, and Portugal are all considered to be mature countries for all intents and purposes, yet these four countries stand separately within the “following” segment from the other mature countries that are positioned well within the “leading” group of countries,” a report accompanying the index said.

“Digital transformation does not happen without deliberate decisions, actions, and spending, and these four countries are not displaying any vitality or will,” the report added.

The four countries had a skilled workforce and software developers and R&D spending that exceeds the average performance of the other “follower” countries – which included China – according to the report.

But there performance was amongst the lowest bracket on ICT patents “pointing to a skilled IT workforce that is dwindling without a solid vision and investment strategy from their IT and government leaders”, the index said.

Subscribe to our newsletters