This article is part of our special report Cloud Computing.
Young Europeans are getting fewer degrees in computer science, according to statistics released a week after a policy expert warned the European Commission that regulators are not keeping up with the pace of technological change.
New Eurostat figures show that 3.4% of students across the 27 EU countries graduated in computer science in 2009, compared with 4.0% in 2005, with a mixed picture across individual countries.
The highest increases were registered in Malta (1.9% of all graduates in 2005 to 5.6% in 2009) and Hungary (2.0% to 3.4%), with the largest decreases in Portugal (5.1% to 1.7%) and the United Kingdom (5.9% to 4.0%).
In 2009, the highest shares of computing graduates were found in Malta and Austria (both 5.6% of all graduates), Spain (5.1%), Cyprus (4.7%) and Estonia (4.4%).
Computer use varies widely
The statistics also showed a huge differential between computer use by people aged 16-74 across member states.
In 2011, figures show, only half of all Romanians had ever used a computer, with Bulgaria and Greece also performing poorly on 55% and 59% respectively.
In Sweden almost everyone (96%) had used a computer, and similar near-saturation use was recorded in Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (all 94%).
The decrease in computer graduates came in the middle of the Commission’s e-skills week, which seeks to beef up awareness of the need for computer skills across the continent.
It also came a week after Dan Reed, a policy expert with Microsoft Research, warned the EU executive that the pace of computing technological change was so rapid that regulators were being left behind.
Computers about to start thinking and doing things
Attending a debate examining how Europe was dealing with the technological revolution, Reed said: “The rate of technological change is outstripping the ability of social structures to adapt.”
Reed said that the rate of significant change in technology used to run on a six-year cycle, but he said “six years ahead is now a science fiction story”.
He said that the world was on the cusp of a major revolution as computing moved from being a passive part of human life to becoming an active assistant.
“We are on the edge of intelligent and anticipatory computing,” he told delegates at a debate organised by Friends of Europe.
Regulators needed to carefully define their public policy goals and apply clear horizontal rules across the sector on issues such as data protection, rather than specific laws, Reed said.
Replying to Reed, the chief scientific advisor to Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Anne Glover, said more needed to be done to bring science graduates into the policymaking sphere and that scientists needed to talk more to policymakers. “That way we will have sharper, nimbler policy,” she said.