Desi index, digital Italy wins. ‘Don’t miss the PNRR train’

Italy is gaining some ground in its digitization process of society, taking 18th place out of 27 member states in Europe in the index Desicompared to the twentieth place in 2021. A tiring path, full of obstacles of all kinds, primarily cultural, which, however, this year sees our country climb two places in the European ranking of DESI, Digital Economy and Society Index 2022, considered the European benchmark for digitalisation. A good result all in all, also because a few years ago we were still in 25th place and in the last 5 years we are the country that has grown the most, also because we started far behind. And we are also far behind in ultra-broadband fiber coverage compared to the EU average. Instead, we are at the peak of 5G coverage in urban areas. “Italy is gaining ground and given the progress in their DESI score over the last five years, it is progressing at a very rapid pace – we read in Desi about Italy – In recent years, digital issues have gained political attention, thanks in particular to the creation of a Ministry of Technological Innovation and the Digital Transition, the adoption of various key strategies and the launch of many strategic initiatives”.

Read also: Desi index, Italy climbs 5 places in the rankings, but the digital qualification gap remains

Colao, ‘Italy is improving thanks to digital Pnrr’

“Italy continues to make progress in the European Commission’s Desi index, which monitors the degree of digitization of member states, in 18th place, improving by two positions compared to 2021.

The 2022 index improves thanks to the connectivity and integration components of digital technologies. In recent months we have assigned all Pnrr calls with the aim of bringing the fast network to all Italian homes, schools and health facilities. With this major work, Italy will be the first country in Europe to have very high-speed fixed and mobile networks ahead of European targets.

These are the first steps on a path that will bring us among the leading EU countries within four years thanks to NRP’s investments. Indeed, today’s data is certainly positive and encouraging, but not entirely satisfactory. We are still behind the European average in terms of human capital. Although we see a slight improvement this year, there is still a lot of work to be done in the long run to increase everyone’s digital skills. We also have a gap to fill in the digitization of public services, as we are already carrying out many of the initiatives envisaged by the NRP, and we are allocating resources to local and central PAs.

In this year and a half of work in the government, we have set ourselves ambitious goals, we have laid a solid foundation for the digitization of the country and now we have the tools and skills for it. It will be crucial to continue on the path that has been set to achieve this goal.” The Minister for Innovation and Digital Transformation, Vittorio Colao.

Don’t miss the PNRR train

In other words, Europe recognizes the work done, digital has become a subject of political rank and the establishment of the Ministry of Digital Transition has been happy, but having said that, the road must continue. “By giving continuity to the initiatives launched and leveraging the many strengths the country has, Italy can further improve its performance in DESI. The Recovery and Resilience Plan, Europe’s largest, provides it with the necessary means to accelerate digital transformation – it’s read – The country also has a robust industrial base and research community in key areas such as artificial intelligence, high-performance computing and quantum. These strengths could be harnessed to implement digital technology in all sectors of the economy in full accordance with the anthropocentric approach advocated by the Digital Principles”.

In other words, the EU is urging us not to miss the PNRR train to complete a digitization process that still sees us as a delay.

The problem of digital skills and specialist knowledge remains

From this year’s indicators “It turns out that Italy is closing the gap with the EU in terms of basic digital skills; even today, more than half of Italian citizens do not even have basic digital skills. The share of digital specialists in the Italian workforce is below the EU average, and the outlook for the future is weakened by the modest rates of 1 See section 1.3 of the thematic chapters of DESI 2022. Index of digitization of the economy and society 2022 Italy 4 enrollment and degree in the ICT sector”, it is read.

Connection, fiber still behind

As for connectivity “Progress has been made in terms of expanding broadband services and building the network. There are still some gaps in coverage of ultra-high capacity networks (including fiber to the user’s home), which is still far behind the EU average, as well as the Digital Decade target of universal coverage in 2030“, it reads. There is no mention in the document that the goals of 1 Gbps connectivity and country coverage in our country have been ambitiously envisaged for 2026 and that all the more for this reason we will have to accelerate to keep the schedule.

Lack of big data and artificial intelligence

If our companies move on the digital front, where 60% have at least a basic level of “Digital Intensity”the same cannot be said about other neighboring technologies: Big data and artificial intelligence are behind it.

PA digital services, Italy below the EU average: only 40% of citizens use them (but a 10% increase compared to 2020)

Italy is making progress in offering digital public services, reducing the gap with the EU average. “It is necessary to continue the efforts already undertaken to allow Italy to reach the Digital Decade target of online availability of 100% of the main public services for businesses and citizens of the Union and to make electronic health records fully operational . Although only 40% of Italian internet users make use of digital public services (compared to an EU average of 65%), this indicator has grown significantly in the last two years (with an increase of 10 percentage points between 2020 and 2022)”.

A positive trend therefore, and if you look at the glass half full, it means that tools such as Spid and Anpr are gaining ground, just like the IO app. “However, the introduction and dissemination of electronic health records remains limited and uneven from region to region”, it is read.

Pnrr, connecting calls valued at EU level

The Recovery and Resilience Plan provides additional momentum and accelerates progress. “Between January 2021 and March 2022, the government launched public tenders to promote the development of fixed Gigabit connectivity and 5G mobile coverage in areas with market failure. In addition, to support demand, the government launched a voucher scheme dedicated to small and medium-sized enterprises with a total budget of over 600 million euros, which facilitates the activation of broadband Internet connections from 30 Mbps to more than 1 Gbps with a guaranteed minimum bandwidth”read it.

The hope, of course, is that with the new government emerging from the September 25 election, digital momentum will not lose momentum. Also because within the framework of the NRP we are in the middle of the ford, between the allocation phase and the practical and concrete implementation of the projects to lay the new networks.

Digital in Italy’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR)

Italy’s recovery and resilience plan, the largest in the entire EU, amounts to €191.5 billion. 25.1% of this amount (i.e. €48 billion) is allocated to the digital transition. In connection with the first payment request, Italy reached 51 milestones and targets. Some of these related to measures in the digital sector, such as: the “Cloud first and interoperability” reform, including the new Cloud strategy and legislative changes that introduce incentives and obligations to introduce the cloud of public administrations; the reform of ICT procurement, which streamlines and accelerates the procurement process for ICT services and goods; publication of calls for expressions of interest for the selection of projects within the framework of “Major Projects of Common European Interest” (IPCEI), including “Microelectronics II” and “Next Generation Cloud Infrastructures and Services”; the establishment of the national program to ensure the employability of workers and the national plan for new skills. In the context of the second payment request, Italy should award all the contracts for the five connectivity measures included in the plan, which amount to a total of 6.7 billion. EUR: “Italia a 1 Giga”, “Italia 5G”, “Connected schools”, “Connected health” and “Connecting smaller islands”. The country is also expected to allocate funds to IPCEIs in June 2022 and select the list of project participants in mid-2023. Based on the Council Implementing Decision on Italy’s Recovery and Resilience Plan, among other investments and reforms linked to milestones and targets to be achieved by 2022 include measures aimed at:

· Promote the digitization of schools (“School 4.0”) and improve vocational education (the reform of the higher vocational education system “ITS”);

· Strengthen the system of research and technology transfer centers that can be expanded to sectors such as advanced simulation and big data, quantum, industry 4.0 or artificial intelligence;

Accelerate the modernization of the public administration, with the completion of the national cloud infrastructure (National Strategic Pole) as well as the National Digital Data Platform, and with the implementation of measures aimed at strengthening IT security, already started with the establishment of the National Cybersecurity agency in 2021.

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