The EU4Digital programme is working on a methodology for measuring and forecasting digital skills for the Eastern partner countries, including recommendations to introduce common measurement practices in line with EU practices.
Digital skills are not only essential for ICT specialists or companies undergoing digital transformation, but are rapidly becoming vital for each individual to successfully take part in the digital economy and society.
In its 2016 initiative, ‘Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults’, the European Union stated that digital competence was as important as literacy and numeracy. The lack of digital literacy and skills can be a significant excluding factor for many people, limiting or even preventing the productivity gains possible through ICT uptake.
Remedying digital literacy and skills gaps starts with the identification of the problem. Digital skills measurement is key for enabling evidence-based identification and targeting of problem areas.
In the EU, the European Commission has created the Digital Economy and Society index (DESI), a tool which monitors the performance of EU Member States in digital connectivity, digital skills online activity, the digitisation of businesses and digital public services. DESI measures EU country progress towards a digital economy and society, including the area of human capital, since 2014. The human capital dimension of DESI measures the skills required to utilise the possibilities enabled by digital solutions.
When it comes to the Eastern partner countries, a 2015 study on the Harmonisation of the Digital Markets in the Eastern Partnership assessed the readiness of digital markets in the Eastern partner countries for possible harmonisation and integration into the digital single market, and found the region lacked a systematic approach to measuring the digital skills gap.
The study said it was a priority to develop such a digital skills methodology and thus improve awareness of the need to match demand and supply. This would help Eastern partner countries to adapt their policies to bridge digital skills gaps and to enable education and training providers to match their curricula to the needs of a rapidly changing labour market.
In response to this need, EU4Digital is now working on a “Methodology for measuring and forecasting digital skills gaps and identifying priority remedial actions”, and in the coming months will present a set of recommendations for introducing common digital skills measurement practices aligned with EU methodologies.
The availability of data plays a key role in the development of digital skills strategies in Eastern partner countries and their harmonisation with European level strategies. The development of a common methodology for measuring and forecasting national digital skills gaps in the Eastern partner countries will support:
- Tailoring national-level development strategies to concrete data measured in line with EU practices, helping to identify concrete problem areas and supply and demand gaps;
- A common approach to collecting digital skills related data that will enable comparison between Eastern partner countries and the EU and allow countries to seek joint solutions to digital skills related issues;
- Systematic and regular measurement to serve as the basis to predict the future needs of the labour market in relation to digital skills.
Even more value could be brought by aligning measurement policies between Eastern partner countries and with the EU, which would enable better benchmarking and gap analysis. A systematic approach to measuring and forecasting digital skills aligned with EU policies and methodologies such as DESI and EUROSTAT surveys, has not been implemented in Eastern partner countries and measurement and forecasting maturity levels vary widely. Moreover, multiple prerequisites, including appropriate competences, governance and resources, need to be in place before the implementation of aligned methodologies can be carried out.