Digital Assembly 2018: Driving digital transformation in Europe

How should the mismatch between the demand and supply of essential digital capabilities in Europe be addressed?

Making the first move or simply stepping into the unknown can be daunting and often requires courage, or some would say it is a missed opportunity.  Whatever your perspective, the reality is that Europe has been slow in seizing first mover advantages when it comes to investing in, using and providing services based on leading edge technology solutions to its citizens.

This message that came across clearly in the “Digital in the Upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework” plenary session at The Digital Assembly 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The event is co-organised by the European Commission and the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Delegates heard how for the first time ever, there is a proposal for a dedicated digital budget to ensure that Europe drives the digital transformation of society and economy bringing benefits to all citizens and businesses.

The proposed 9.2 billion euros will fund investments in:


  • High Performance computing
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Digital Transformation & Interoperability
  • Advanced Digital Skills
  • Cybersecurity & Trust


Whilst the investment is welcomed, equally as important was the acknowledgement that there is a mismatch between the demand and supply of essential digital capabilities, specifically an investment gap in high performance computing resources for data scientists who are turning to resources outside Europe, a lack of large datasets for AI and a lack of real large scale testing facilities as well as fragmented investment in cyber security.   Combined with the reality of 400,000 unfilled vacancies in technical roles, there is a clear case for the Digital Europe Programme and subsequent new funding.

Detailed examples of impact were outlined including by 2023, 5-10% of public sector data would be easily available for innovators and researchers across the EU, by 2027 some 450 million citizens would have access to health records and by 2027 ICT specialist employment would increase from 8.2 million in 2016 to 12 million.

Linking to transport and energy will be key to Europe’s overall success as digital will be at the heart of all transformation programmes, including the successful rollout of high capacity digital networks and 5G systems, coupled with the need for increased resilience and capacity in the backbone networks of EU territories.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

It is a bold vision and certainly looking at the progress to date of the Digital Single Market, namely deliving on the 16 point plan (and half now legislation) as well as the big people pleaser, the removal of roaming costs for citizens, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had every right to feel proud of  the achievements made during his country’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Investment in the technologies alone will not be enough, it will be a combined approach to people (skills, training, education, lifelong learning), processes (best practice between NGOs, Industry etc) and technologies that could help Europe reap some first mover advantages.


Sarah Atkinson is Vice President, Communications, Exec Sponsor for Gender Diversity, EMEA and a Board…


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