Collaboration delivers digital skills for a digital Europe – EURACTIV.com
There is a significant digital skills gap in Europe. To overcome this problem, strategic collaboration between public and private actors is essential. Closing the digital skills gap will ensure that technology continues to benefit an inclusive and equitable society, today and tomorrow.
Giorgia Epicoco is Senior European Public Affairs Manager at HUAWEI EU.
The digital age has created challenges and opportunities for businesses, governments and societies. Since the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution, practitioners from all sectors and all countries have come together to analyze the risks and new perspectives of this new industrial era. Advances in technology have offered little time to think and many opportunities to act. And to act, we must develop human capital.
Education has always been a cornerstone of public policy, especially in Europe. The European Union has placed a strong emphasis on educational programmes, and more recently on reskilling, upskilling and lifelong learning as key pillars of the digital education action plan ( 2021-2027). These are essential elements in embracing the digital and green twin transition. Moreover, while businesses have transformed at an unprecedented rate, making it difficult for academic institutions to keep pace, new forms of education are providing European citizens with tools for new job opportunities or to stay in the job.
The challenges of the digital age of the European Union are numerous. In 2019, one in five European households still lacked access to fast broadband coverage due to lack of digital infrastructure. In 2020, more than half of businesses in the EU had difficulty recruiting IT specialists. How can the EU be at the forefront of the digital transition and the green twin when such problems lurk around the corner? Two fundamental issues require our immediate attention to bridge the gap: open collaboration and skill development, the two being closely related.
It is undeniable that in the EU there is a digital skills gap coupled with a skills mismatch and a staggering gender gap, as we also highlighted in the white paper published with ALL DIGITAL and EY “Strategies to address the digital skills gap in the EU”. “In 2020, only 1 in 5 IT specialists were women in the EU. Around two-thirds of EU citizens with low digital skills will need to improve their level of digital literacy by 2025 to meet the targets set in the digital education plan. While the EU employed 8.4 million IT specialists in 2020 due to increased demand spurred by COVID-19, we still need more than 350,000 specialists to fill vacancies. Open collaboration with much more advanced countries and companies could ease the burden on the shoulders of Europeans, by enhancing talent mobility, knowledge and technology transfer, thus helping to bridge an existing gap, leading to an increase unemployment rates across the Union.
The European Union is a leader in promoting knowledge and technology transfer, convinced that improving educational opportunities is an essential factor for change and development. According to the Donor Tracker, in 2019 the European Union spent €1 billion of its official development assistance on education, making the EU the OECD’s largest donor in this sector . The ripple effect of securing and promoting global partnerships with ICT providers in the European Union through academic collaboration, knowledge exchange, capacity building and dialogue will help the Europe to close digital gaps at all levels, for the benefit of students, teachers, civil servants, SMEs and start-ups. Open collaboration through education in the European Union can fulfill the promise of the digital and green transition. At Huawei, we firmly believe that we can be that trusted partner, as evidenced by our 22 years of experience in Europe working with European partners for European customers.