#DigiEU: The Digital Economy and Society Index shows that four out of ten adults who work in Europe lack basic digital skills. Moreover, one out of every three 13-year-olds lack basic digital skills. What actions can the EU take to promote digital literacy among people of all ages?

Committee on Culture and Education

By Mirela Bertinelli (ES) 

The Case Study 

Emma, 35, is a Human Resources Manager at a distinguished company. Faced with a personnel shortage, Emma undertakes the task of seeking individuals interested in joining her company. Before going through the resumes, Emma remembers that under the company’s requisites, prospective employees are obligated to summarise the entirety of the company’s sales data through a spreadsheet before getting hired. While going through the resumes, Emma is astounded by their exceptionality. Each candidate exhibits extensive experience, an impressive academic background, and a genuine eagerness to secure employment. However, a significant impediment arises—none of the applicants possess the fundamental knowledge essential for navigating the sources employed by the company. This presents Emma with a formidable challenge: the quest for candidates equipped with elementary digital skills.


Like Emma, numerous managers are in similar situations, acknowledging that more than 90% of European professional positions require basic digital skills,  as we can see in Picture 1. However, there is a contrasting narrative: individuals possessing advanced degrees and substantial qualifications are being told that their expertise lacks specialisation, potentially in digital areas unrelated to their academic pursuits. This challenge goes beyond the employed demographic, affecting the younger generation whose future is more likely to be immersed in digital devices.

Taking into account that the academic pursuits that the younger generation has can vary, there is an increase in the decline in youth engagement with IT subjects. Therefore, the action must be taken to safeguard the essential digital knowledge of upcoming generations, for it is the key to unlocking future efficacy and innovation within the EU. Failure to act now may result in irreparable consequences that might heavily impact many generations ahead of us. This highlights the importance of implementing measures to safeguard the essential knowledge of upcoming generations, promoting both efficacy and innovation within the EU.

Picture 1: Percentage of European enterprises that reached a basic level of digital intensity

Key Concepts

  • Basic digital skills is proficiency in discovering, assessing, utilising, sharing, and generating content through digital devices like computers and smartphones.
  • Digital skills gap is disparity between the digital skills imparted by the education system, and the skills desired by employers. 
  • Digitalisation is the operation of a system or process via the use of computers and the Internet.
  • Technology exposure refers to the degree of interaction individuals have with digital devices and platforms in personal and professional contexts. 
  • Digital jobs refers to employment opportunities that primarily involve the use of digital technologies and skills. These jobs leverage digital tools, platforms, and processes to perform tasks, deliver services, or create products. 
  • Critical digital areas are specific industries, systems, or aspects in the digital domain that are considered highly important due to their impact on aspects like national security, economic stability, and public well-being. These areas include like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Common Data Spaces, high-performance computing or 5G.
  • eSkills can include proficiency in using software, navigating digital platforms, understanding internet safety, and other competencies relevant to the digital landscape. It is crucial to distinguish these from basic digital skills.

Key Actors and Stakeholders

The Directorate-General on Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT)

The Directorate-General on Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) is a part of the European Commission, and its role is to develop and implement policies in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) to help further the EU’s advancement into the digital age. It develops guidelines in sectors such as the digital economy and society as well as research and innovation, both in direct relation to AI and the EU’s approach to this rising industry.

Through funding and legislation, DG CONNECT aims to secure leadership in Europe in critical digital areas. Their goals include elevating Europe to a position of global leadership in the data economy and in cybersecurity, promoting a fair internal market, implementing high-speed networks, and promoting a human-centric, innovative, and sustainable digital transformation.

European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA)

The European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) embodies the European Commission’s commitment to rebuild a post-COVID-19 Europe in a digital way. Its mission is to promote widespread digitalisation across Europe to achieve sustainable digital transformation through programmes like Horizon Europe, which aims to reach innovation in Europe. The Connecting Europe Facility, which promotes and accelerates investments in digital connectivity infrastructures that are of common interest to Europe, as well as the Digital Europe programme, which seeks to develop the strategic digital capabilities of the EU and facilitate the extensive adoption of digital technologies.

World Labor Organisation (ILO)

The World Labor Organisation (ILO) unites the governments, employers, and workers from Member States and its mission encompasses the establishment of labour standards, formulation of policies, and creation of programs aimed at advancing the cause of decent work. ILO also highlights the digitalisation in the workforce and that is why this organisation has intervened through policies in diverse workforce areas. The main idea of employment policy is trying to highlight the potential of digitalization to help employment generation and to increase companies productivity. The areas in which it is taking action are for example; digital inclusion, digital labour platforms and obviously, digital skills.

Member States

Technological development is a shared competence between the European Commission’s Directorate-Generals and each Member State, which can adopt an internal approach in accordance with the Union-wide recommendations. This can refer to state-wide regulations through legislation and campaigns.

Citizens in the workforce

Due to the lack of eSkills, citizens are not able to find a job that aligns with their preferences, leading them to settle for alternative employment that may not align with their true desires.


Taking into account the increase in the usage of digital devices in schools and educational environment, this lack of digital skills could not only affect their educational situation, but also in personal fields like communicating with their relatives or friends. Furthermore, almost 20% of young people in developing countries, such as Hungary and Poland, do not end primary school and so they lack not only basic education but also the digital skills required for employment. 

What Has Happened so Far?

Digitalisation’s effect on the labour market

The inevitability of digital transformation becomes evident through the data presented in Picture 2, emphasising the essential connection between organisational evolution and the corresponding enhancement of employee skills. While it may seem insignificant, the absence of technological skills hinders individuals and exposes companies to financial risks by impeding their ability to maximise efficiency. The lack of basic digital skills in companies also contributes to potential financial challenges as those not investing in internal workforce development risk losing competitiveness not only between the company’s personnel but in the market as well. Despite the awareness of the digital skills gap, skill shortages persist, particularly in areas like data science and digital business management. Skill shortages can lead to hiring underprepared employees, which results in wasted salaries and lost profits for companies. It is essential for businesses to prioritise hiring qualified candidates to ensure they can contribute efficiently to the company’s work.

Picture 2. EU’s Digital Intensity Index in 2021 in % of enterprises

There is a divided perspective on whether employees should possess digital skills. Some claim that lack of education should exempt individuals from needing digital skills for certain jobs, while others contend that staying updated with cutting-edge technology is crucial for effective participation in a company.

Technology and children

In today’s world, children are surrounded by technology, from smartphones and social media to TV and tablet-based toys. While it is crucial for the younger generation to cultivate technological skills for lifelong use, excessive technology exposure can have adverse impacts on their health and physical well-being. The range of negative effects includes a heightened risk of obesity and diminished social skills. Even though the abusive usage of technological devices in children can cause some drawbacks to their health, we have to be aware of the rapidly evolving technology, and the future knowledge of younger generations. The impact of cutting-edge technology currently under research such as facial scanning and AI-driven profiling is growing, impacting various aspects of children’s lives, including education, social well-being, and potential future employment opportunities. Moreover, the extent to which they comprehend the digital landscape can significantly shape their schooling as well as other aspects of their lives. This means that the majority of children will have to acquire fundamental technological skills either through school or later-life programs in Europe, where the responsible use of technology is assured as well as the welfare of the students.

Legislation in the EU

Considering that the increasing use of digital devices is seen as a component of research and technological development, an area where the EU holds shared competence, the role is limited to offering guidance to each Member State. However, individual states will independently enact their legislation, indicating that this solution will not be applicable uniformly across Europe.

Nevertheless, the European Commission is actively addressing the digital skills gap. It is engaged in initiatives to enhance digital skills and is supporting projects and strategies for this purpose. These efforts aim to elevate the overall level of digital skills across Europe. Some of the implemented initiatives include Digital Europe Programme and Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition (DSJC). The objectives of the Digital Europe Programme encompass increasing the quality of education and training institutions, as well as generating interest among Europeans to pursue digital careers and attract people to the digital sector. The Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition is an EU initiative fostering collaboration among Member States, companies, social partners, non-profit organisations, and education providers to address the digital skills gap in Europe. It serves as a platform for organisations to share insights, showcase initiatives, and highlight the impact, playing a crucial role in achieving the Digital Decade targets

Food for thought

Digitalisation of the job field is slowly becoming the norm, and it cannot be ignored. As humans, we are curious beings, and we will always be searching for the next evolutionary practice to improve work efficiency, and make our lives easier as a whole, a process which involves automation to some degree. It is time to recognise the significance of digitalisation and take necessary measures to ensure we’re ready for the changes ahead. Though it may seem daunting at first, do not be afraid to ask yourself all the questions during your research. Is it possible for digital devices to replicate all human capabilities? Considering that digital devices can be harmful to children, how should their education be structured to attain a basic level of digital skills? How can Member States ensure the basic learning of these eSkills?

Hey hey! I hope you found this topic interesting and that I provided information that you may find useful. Setting aside the academic part, I would like to tell you that you will do amazing! I know that the academic part might be a little overwhelming, but do not worry, everyone who is here has experienced the same as you! So, try to learn a lot, express your opinions openly and the most important thing, have fun and meet a lot of new people!

Valuable Links to Browse

For a better presentation on how digital skills are important in all matters, you should take into account the information found on this website which is related to the relation EU-Jobs.

You can find this TED talk as well that will help you to understand the roots of the topic. Moreover, another interesting TED talk that might help you understand the importance of digital skills is here.

Also, in this article, it is shown the opinion of a 22-year-old who is aware of the digital skills gap between his friends as well as the point of view of an employer.

Lastly, this article shows how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the surge of digitalisation.