We are currently living in the era of digital transformation, an era that businesses, tech stakeholders, regulators, academia, and society in general have been preparing over the past few years. However, the time has come to turn these discussions into tangible endeavours and put the steps in motion to ensure that society and businesses are at the forefront of any technological revolution. In other words, nations must now actively pursue the establishment of their digital plans.

To make our societies and economies fit for the digital age, the EU is committed to creating a safe digital space for citizens and businesses in a manner that is inclusive and accessible for all. This means enabling a digital transformation that safeguards EU values and protects citizens' fundamental rights and security, while also enhancing Europe's digital sovereignty.

This is why the European Commission presented a vision that targets and avenues for a successful digital transformation of Europe by 2030. 

As a negotiator on behalf of the Socialists and Democrats on the 2030 policy agenda 'Path to the Digital Decade,' MEP Josianne Cutajar has contributed to the agreement which reached by the co-legislators last July. 

“This agreement is a tangible step toward preparing the European Union and its Member States for the much-needed digital transition. Moving forward, we must prioritize these 2030 targets relating to digital skills among our workers and citizens, connectivity, as well as digitalization of businesses, especially when it comes to SMEs, and the public sector,” said MEP Josianne Cutajar.

In the framework of the Digital Compass, the Commission has initiated the process of adopting a European declaration on digital rights and principles. The purpose of the declaration is to establish the rights of citizens in the digital domain and to develop a set of principles that the EU and its member states commit to respect in the digital transition. The strategy prioritises digital skills and education and is centred around four domains: skills, business, government, and infrastructure.

MEP Josianne Cutajar added, “I remain steadfast in working towards making the EU a place that makes the digital revolution genuinely inclusive, where everyone's contribution is valued, and where no one, and no region, is left behind.”

So why is the notion of a digital society so pertinent?

The deployment of digital infrastructures 

With fixed Very High-Capacity Networks (VHCN) covering 70 per cent of households (DESI 2022), the EU is on course to reach its connectivity goals, but more will be required to support the development of cutting-edge technologies like edge computing, which allows for data processing and storage closer to the data source. The shift to a decarbonized economy will be the other significant structural upheaval that EU economies will experience in the 2020s, along with digital revolution. This shift toward greater sustainability will be supported by increased usage of digital technology.

Closing the skills gap

While the majority of Europeans have at least basic digital skills, there are considerable variances between countries, with the proportion of the population having at least basic digital skills varying from 29 per cent to 79 per cent. There is also a severe gender imbalance as, in the past five years, there has been a slow increase in the number of women in information and communication technology (ICT) professions and in the improvement of fundamental digital skills.

Using technology such as machine learning to automate existing tasks will contribute significantly to the economic effect of the Digital Decade agenda. As job descriptions shift, there will be an increased need for both the private and public sectors to assist in the reskilling and upskilling of existing workers.

Digitalising public services

The EU has reached around 75 per cent of its goal in providing 100 per cent of essential digital public services and 82 per cent of the same goal for digital services for enterprises (DESI 2022).

Public First reported that EU residents are eager to utilise digital public services. Progress is dependent on learning from current leaders. The EU should operate as a facilitator between member states to assist them learn from one another how to replicate and implement best practises for digital transformation, such as standardising data and automating routine procedures.

In this aspect, Malta has a strong performance as measured by the DESI 2022 indicator 'Digital Public Services'. The island devotes more than fifty percent of its digital budget to the digitization of governmental services. The significance of digitalising public services is that they may serve as a model for private organisations to emulate.

The digital transformation of businesses 

The EU had over 200 unicorns in 2021, which was double the amount in 2017, and the number is projected to rise again by 2030. Most of these companies are tech-baseD and have reached a valuation of €1 billion without being listed on the stock market. Many European businesses have yet to implement latest technological tools, such as cloud computing. The value of digitising the whole economy would be 8.5 times that of expanding the EU's technology industry.

In 2021, only 55 per cent of SMEs reached a basic level in the adoption of digital technologies in the EU. As businesses are getting more digitalised, the use of advanced tech remains relatively low.

In 2022, the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) reveals that 73 per cent of Maltese SMEs have at least a basic level of digital intensity, as Maltese enterprises excel in their usage of cloud technology, big data, and, to a lesser extent, artificial intelligence. Regardless, substantial progress must be made to accomplish the Digital Decade objectives and beyond.

In conclusion, MEP Josianne Cutajar says that: “The agreement has already been endorsed by the ITRE Committee and it will now be voted upon next plenary. I look forward to seeing this proposal become a reality in the coming months and towards working for a more resilient digital Europe."

Given Tech.mt's strategic position as a uniquely established foundation between the Government and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, its primary focus is to strengthen the link between the public and private sectors while ensuring the implementation of secure, resilient, and sustainable technologies among businesses and organisations, with the goal of achieving the Digital Decade's objectives.

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