Malta ranks 10th in Europe overall in Digital Economy and Society Index

Malta ranks 10th in Europe overall in Digital Economy and Society Index

Article by Carm Cachia, eSkills Malta Foundation Chief Administrator published on Sunday Times of Malta on 8.09.2019

Malta ranks 10th in Europe overall in Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2019

The European Commission has been monitoring member states’ digital competitiveness with the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) reports since 2015.

DESI country reports combine quantitative evidence from indicators across the five dimensions of the index with country-specific policy insights and best practices. In effect, DESI is a composite index that summarises relevant indicators in Europe through the tracking of EU member states in digital competitiveness.

In the 2019 report, Malta ranks 10th in Europe overall, behind the likes of Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Estonia, but ahead of other strong countries like Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy and Portugal.

The member states’ digital competitiveness is measured using the indicators of connectivity, human capital, use of internet, integration of digital technology and digital public services. Malta would have ranked much higher if, for instance, take-up of its excellent e-government services, was much higher.

In order to improve the methodology and take account of the latest technological developments, a number of changes have been made to the DESI in 2019, which now includes other indicators such as 5G readiness, above basic digital skills, at least basic software skills, female ICT specialists, ICT graduates, people who never used the internet, professional social networks, doing an online course, online consultations and voting, individuals selling online, big data, medical data exchange and e-prescriptions.

Being a very objective radar for member states, each country gives this index its well-deserved attention, and usually shapes up future government direction and policy for the digital economy. Although all five dimensions affect each other in the end, the eSkills Malta Foundation analyses the human capital and use of internet dimensions.

Forty-three per cent of people aged 16 to 74 in Malta still do not have ‘basic’ digital skills in each of the following four sub-dimensions: information, communication, problem-solving and software for content creation, while, 39 per cent have ‘above basic’ digital skills.

Another 43 per cent of people in this age bracket have not used basic software features such as word processing, advanced spreadsheet functions, created a presentation or integrated a document with text, pictures and tables or charts, or written code in any programming language. Although this result does not bode well for employers, we must keep in mind that Malta’s ageing population tends to tip the balance.

On the other hand, Malta has a relatively high percentage of ICT specialists as a proportion of its workforce (4.3 per cent as opposed to 3.7 per cent in the EU), while Malta is among the leaders in terms of ICT specialists (6.8 per cent of all graduates). This bodes well for employers in the public and private sectors. However, we do not fare well in the number of female ICT specialists (1.1 per cent of the female employees).

On the use of internet, Malta is relatively well placed, ranking eighth among the 28 EU countries. However, the number of people in Malta doing an online course, undertaking internet banking or shopping online is still below the EU average.

Malta has a bright future and is seen as a little shining star within the digital economy in Europe. The eSkills Malta Foundation launched a digital skills strategy last April and along with other exemplary initiatives in education and industry, should push Malta further up the scale and expand our economy. We are therefore very positive and look forward to a better future.