Willem Jonker, CEO of EIT Digital, talks about the lack of digital skills in Europe and how this challenge can be overcome.

According to the latest Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), four out of ten adults in the EU lack basic digital skills. More than 70% of business report the lack of staff with adequate digital skills as an obstacle to investment. Europe also faces a shortage of digital experts who can develop cutting-edge technologies for the benefit of all citizens

EIT Digital – Europe’s leading digital innovation and entrepreneurial education organisation – recently signed an agreement with the European Investment Fund to allow more European students and learners to benefit from EIT Digital’s training programmes. The Innovation Platform spoke to the organisation’s CEO, Willem Jonker, about some of the main challenges facing Europe in terms of this lack of skills and, indeed, how they can be overcome.

As a key player in entrepreneurial education, what are the main features you observe in terms of education?

If you look at the situation in Europe, there is a clear need to improve on digital skills. It is both that we lack digital experts – so a lot of companies cannot recruit the personnel they need to support their digital transformation – and that the existing workforce in general does not really have the additional digital skills needed to pick up the job.

There is a general lack of digital experience. So, large groups in the European Union still have difficulties in mastering the complexity of interactions with businesses and governments when it comes to online. And that means that there is also a general need for upskilling, for making sure that we have an inclusive society where more and more services are offered in a digital way, in which the population is able to keep track of that in the whole of Europe.

Four out of ten EU adults really lack the skills to truly master digital applications. They need support from other people, they have difficulties in completing online forms, they have security issues, they have upgrading issues with software and so on. That number is actually quite high. If you look at business, then more than 70% of them report lacking staff with adequate digital skills.

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