Innovation does not only happen through inspired individuals but through digital development according to a recent pan-European study by Microsoft.

The Microsoft Digital Future Index analysed the digital journeys of 16 European countries in the so-called CEE region – from those at earlier stages, to countries recognized as ‘front-runners’ – and found a correlation between each country’s digital development and their societal and economic outcomes.

The Index, collated from 1,000 data points from trusted public sources, also included Malta, also found that when it comes to Connectivity, Skilled Tech Talent-Base and Investment in Research and Development, Malta is at par with Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, countries that in the context of this study, are considered as front-runners and a benchmark.

“The Digital Future Index showed us where countries are doing well, and where they ought to improve. There is more work to be done but the data pertaining to Malta is very positive and to us at Microsoft, this is an amazing achievement and testament to all the work that we have been doing in Malta to support its business sector, its economic growth and its national strategies over these past 20 years in Malta,” said Kyle Anastasi, Microsoft’s Lead in Malta.

The aim of this data-led exploration of digital development across Europe was to determine how every country’s digital development achievements have impacted their respective societal and economic outcomes and to uncover key actionable insights that can help countries fuel digital progress for greater economic and societal benefit.

“To increase the pace of digital development, businesses and governments need actionable insights. Through the data collated from this Digital Futures Index we are learning from the more digitally advanced nations how best to help countries map the fastest journey possible to a greener, wealthier, more innovative and competitive future,” added Kyle Anastasi.

Besides these achievements, the Digital Futures Index also ranked Malta above average and very close to these front-runners in areas such as Digital Infrastructure, Digital Government and Public Sector, Digital Business, Digital Competitiveness, Size of Digital Economy, Level of Digitization of Public Service and for Size of Start-up Sector.

“This result confirmed our belief that countries that have high levels of digitized public services see higher innovation and productivity. This is what is happening in Malta,” added Anastasi.

“Digitization has truly become the foundation for everything that matters and Government policy and investment in digital technology and services remains an integral part of catalysing innovation, stimulating growth, or tackling societal challenges. Innovation however, needs a connected ecosystem and a holistic approach by policymakers to intentionally cultivate it, encompassing business, the digital sector, digital infrastructure, start-ups, talent, and the public sector.”

And at an age of increasing urgency to take action to meet environmental targets and accelerate the shift to a more sustainable economy, digitization with its strong relationship with a country’s environmental performance and lower air pollution, should be twinned with ‘green’ strategies as part of national recovery initiatives. The greatest impact will come from investing in both digital technology and skilling people.

Greater positive outcomes for people, the economy and society can be delivered but to increase the pace of digital development, business and government leaders need actionable insights.

“We started from one crucial question – what can we learn from more digitally advanced nations that will help everyone map the fastest journey possible to a greener, wealthier, more innovative, and competitive future? Our Digital Futures Index has helped us find the answer to this question,” he added.

One of the key findings of the Index was that country-level investment both by the private and public sectors in ICT, Cloud, IoT, and AI has the strongest correlation with innovation overall. And businesses that spend more on digital technology and services, especially cloud computing, are more innovative and productive – twin priorities for every firm.

“Everyone has a role to play. It’s not where a country, business or person is in their digital journey which is most important – it’s the speed at which they progress.

“We found that those countries where people have deeper levels of ‘everyday’ digital skills, and more actively use digital technology and services of various kinds, score more highly on key quality-of-life indicators: They are more productive, and they earn more. This drives more innovation that helps the economy grow, creating new and better jobs, better air quality and as a result, greener communities.

“The Digital Futures Index was created to instigate debate amongst policymakers, leaders in private and public organizations, entrepreneurs, and innovators as well as the broader public as to how, together, we can realize our shared goals. That matters to all of us, as it’s about our lives, our careers, our futures,” concluded Anastasi.

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