Romania is not well integrated into the digital world, according to EC’s Digital Economy and Society Index
With a score of 30.6 points, Romania lags behind all other EU Member States, according to the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2022, which tracks digital progress in the European Union. The EU average is 52.3 points.
According to the EC’s press release, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Member States made progress in their digitization efforts, but have not yet managed to close gaps in the areas of digital skills, digital transformation of SMEs (small and medium enterprises), deployment of advanced 5G connectivity structures and AI (artificial intelligence) development.
Even still, taking all aspects into consideration, Romania’s relative annual growth is behind that of its peers, indicating that it is not converging with the rest of the Member States.
And while the country maintains its high rankings in the proportion of employed female ICT specialists (ranking 2nd), ICT graduates (ranking 4th), and connectivity (which surpasses the EU average), it is lagging behind in several other areas, such as a very low level of basic digital skills in the general population and a low level of digitalization when it comes to public services and businesses, especially SMEs.
Romania scores well below the EU average concerning at least basic digital skills (28% vs 54%) and above basic digital skills (9% vs 26%).
Romania also scores poorly in the integration of digital technologies, ranking last, as nearly all indicators remain considerably below the EU average and have either stagnated or even decreased in the past year. For example, the share of SMEs with at least a basic level of digital presence was 22% compared to the EU average of 55%.
Additionally, digital public services continue to be a challenge for Romania. The country performs significantly below the EU average as the availability of digital public services for citizens is quite low (a score of 44, compared to the EU average of 75) and only 17% of internet users are using e-government services.
There is therefore a serious need for "a significant change of pace" if the country is to reach the EU’s Digital Decade goals for 2030.
The Romanian Recovery and Resilience Plan aims to contribute to this necessary development: "With investment support of almost EUR 6 billion, the Romanian Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) includes highly significant measures to fully embrace digitalization, along all DESI dimensions, i.e. digital skills, connectivity, support of businesses, and digital public services," says the document.
As these measures, whether they be investments or reforms, are managed by several ministries and public entities, the EC believes that care should be taken to ensure that they are implemented coherently and effectively, in a manner that would "greatly benefit the digitalization efforts".
Here are some of the measures in the RRP concerning the digital realm:
- Component 4 - Sustainable transport – allocates EUR 864 mln to the digitalization of the railway system and the development of sustainable road infrastructure, including digital elements.
- Component 7 - Digital transformation - earmarks EUR 1 817 mln for the digital transformation of the public sector, including the 2021-2026 National Cybersecurity Strategy, the government cloud and interoperability law, and the 5G Network Security Law.
- Component 8 - Tax and pensions reform – makes several investments for the digitalization of the tax and pensions authorities.
- Component 9 - Business support, research, development, and innovation - allocates EUR 1 064 mln to support businesses’ digitalization, including the implementation of
- digital technologies and solutions such as artificial intelligence, data clouds, and blockchain.
- Component 15 - Education - a budget of 1 129.5 mln is dedicated to reforms and investments for the digitalization of education, including equipping schools with technological equipment and online educational resources.