Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2022

Authors: Stefan Spiteri & Christine Borg Millo

Christine is a legal intern at GVZH Advocates. She has just finished her Bachelor of Laws (Honours) degree at the University of Malta and will continue her Master of Advocacy degree in the next scholastic term. Some of her key interests include Environmental Law, Commercial Law, Employment Law and Maritime Law.

Introduction – DESI 2022

The European Commission publishes the Digital Economy and Society index (DESI) report annually. This report is presented for three main purposes. First, it monitors the progress of EU Member States in their overall digital development. It also helps Member States identify areas for priority action and EU-level analysis in four key areas. These are human capital, connectivity, integration of digital technology, and digital public services. Third, the report includes an assessment of national digital policies, and an overview of digital investments and reforms in the Recovery and Resilience Plans [1].

The report serves as an indicator for monitoring progress toward the 2030 concrete targets of the Digital Compass, titled ‘Path to the Digital Decade Policy Programme’. The latter promotes a digitally literate population with a highly skilled digital workforce; secure and sustainable digital infrastructures; the digital transformation of businesses and public services as well as the respect of the EU’s Digital rights and principles in achieving the general objectives.

By the end of 2022, when the policy programme comes into effect, its data will contribute to an annual report entitled ‘State of the Digital Decade’, which will provide a comprehensive overview and assessment of the digital transformation in the EU.

Malta’s reputation

Malta has demonstrated an impressive digital status and reputation.  In general, it has maintained its rank, from 2021, as the 6th most advanced digital economy in the EU after Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland.

The 4 categories and their ranking

In the first dimension of Human Capital, Malta ranks 7th among the 27 EU countries. This means that Malta is above the EU average in digital skills and digital content creation. After years of decline, the proportion of ICT graduates has increased slightly and is above the EU average, and outside of higher education, 28% of Maltese enterprises provide ICT training to their employees. The percentage of ICT specialists in the workforce is relatively high, and women are comparatively well represented.

As for Connectivity, Malta is the country with the best overall coverage of Very High Capacity Networks (VHCN), along with Luxembourg, Denmark, Spain, Latvia and the Netherlands,. In fact, all countries have more than 90% of their homes covered with full coverage of basic broadband infrastructure, and 70% of such households can benefit from a fixed VHCN, having also the potential of offering gigabit speeds, an increase of 10% year-on-year.

Malta ranks 5th on the Integration of Digital Technology. A large share of SMEs in Malta have at least a basic level of digital intensity. Maltese businesses are very strong in the use of intermediate or sophisticated cloud computing services and big data analysis, and the uptake in AI and electronic information is also above the EU average. Nevertheless, the good performance in the uptake of digital technologies, research and development expenditure by Maltese enterprises accounts for only 2.2% of the value added in the ICT sector (in comparison to the EU’s 5.3% average).

Lastly, in the Digital Public services domain, Malta ranks 3rd. The share of e-government users increased significantly, evidently exceeding the EU average. Locally, priority is given in providing digital public services to citizens and businesses, quickly approaching the EU Digital Decade target to achieve 100% online provision of key public services by 2030. Malta also scores well in the re-use of information across administrations. However, it lacks in facilitating access to and use of open data.

Concluding remarks

All in all, Malta has excelled its many efforts to achieve a high standard of digitisation within the EU. Despite its achievements, there are still endless opportunities for improvement. Malta needs to focus on eliminating any existing lacunas and establishing more advanced digital technologies, by also driving collaboration with other Member States, and cooperation between the public and private sectors to improve local coherence in digital skills.

The several initiatives described in the report are vital to certify that a solid foundation for inclusive progress in the local digital scene is established. This would further guarantee a strong contribution for Malta to attain the 2030 Digital Decade skills targets.

The full report can be accessed here and The Path to the Digital Decade may be accessed here.

[1] Malta is expected to receive circa €316 million in grants under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (Source: European Commission, 2021)