In the annual Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) the ranking of the UK has now slipped to 7th place. In these Digital Transformation stakes the metrics show improvement in all areas – but still the UK is overtaken by faster improving EU States.
As with so many of these multi-factor indices it is not the absolute result but the changes that tell the real story.
DESI brings together five components which are intended to give a rounded view of the Digital Economy & Society: Connectivity, Digital Skills, Citizen Internet use, Business digital integration and digital Public Services.
In this index the top three EU digital players are also the clear global leaders, ahead of South Korea, Japan and the United States. UK politicians may prefer comparison with economies of similar scale but Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and even The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg all demonstrate that the UK has some way to go to meet ‘world-leading’ aspirations.
Inevitably there will be commentary on why the UK has slipped in the rankings. In previous years many would have claimed that the UK position was overstated in the connectivity arena but that is well understood by government as they scramble to refocus investment towards future-proofed full fibre and better mobile coverage.
That refocus is also the case in the Digital Skills arena – as evidenced by this weeks ‘Transformation Strategy’ from DCMS and the likelihood next week of correction to Further Education budgets. In fact the Strategy, much criticised as lacking substance, addresses all five of the DESI dimensions – but it is difficult for politicians to confess to previous policy failures and any diminution of the country’s standing. Far better, they’d say, to look forward to a brighter future.
In the current separatist climate it may be even more difficult for some political factions to accept any school report from the European Commission – but the facts speak for themselves – ‘could do better‘ is but a very gentle and understanding perspective. There are many other EU States where even greater effort will be needed to raise their game to Digital Single Market expectations but that is no excuse for any complacency here at home.