Using the internet and online tools has changed the way we work, interact, and do business. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, blockchain, cybersecurity, robotics, and 5G have started to fundamentally transform the way society functions, impacting everyone regardless of age, gender, social status, or level of education.
Across the EU, most companies, public institutions, and schools now find themselves working from home. Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) owners, the self-employed, the elderly, teachers, and parents are finding new ways to embrace technology. Access to and use of digital technologies and skills are vital today. In order to benefit from the accelerating digital transformation, more Europeans need more digital skills. Reports show that 43% of EU citizens have insufficient digital skills[i], while nearly one in five citizens has none[ii]. Not only citizens but also businesses are facing challenges, with only a fifth of companies in the EU-28 being highly digitized. Especially SMEs are lagging behind when it comes to accessing and using digital tools[iii].
Lifelong learning and continuous upskilling and reskilling continue to be an opportunity to better equip employees with digital skills and therefore render businesses more resilient. For SME owners, digital skills can enable them to reach new customers and new markets more easily, develop new products and services, and save on operational costs, among many other benefits. For students, learning digital skills can prepare them better for jobs in an increasingly digital labour market. Online training solutions such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), interactive training content, and online learning communities, play a key role in giving equal access to digital skills. Short-term training courses and job placements can provide students and workers with access to advanced digital skills throughout their education and careers.
We encourage policymakers and educators to firmly integrate digital skills into school curricula and promote digital literacy among people of all ages. The public sector should partner with the private sector to help students benefit from companies’ expertise in digital skills through mentoring and apprenticeships. A stronger alliance between the public sector and businesses will also be key in providing SMEs with ongoing skills development and retraining programs
[i] European Commission. 2019. “The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) Report: Human Capital – Digital Inclusion and Skills” https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=59976.
[ii] European Commission. 2019. “The Future of Work? Work of The Future!” https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/future-work-work-future.
[iii] European Commission. 2019. “The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) Report: Integration of Digital Technology” https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=59979.
Authors: Marc Durando, Executive Director of European Schoolnet and Anja Monrad, Senior Vice President & General Manager at Dell Technologies