The European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) for 2019 saw Ireland move up the rankings once again, cementing its place in Europe’s top 10 of digitally connected countries.
Ireland was ranked seventh of the 28 EU member states for 2019, one place up from its eighth-place finish in 2018 and three up from its 10th place ranking in 2017. In that time period, Ireland’s overall score on the index has improved from 52.8 to 57 and again to 61.4, well ahead of the EU average of 52.5.
Ireland showed improvement in all of the index’s measures, but had an especially good performance in the integration of digital technology, where it ranked first in the EU. This was said to be “particularly because Irish SMEs excel in the use of e-Commerce”. Ireland also recorded the highest growth in digital public services, ranking first in open data and second in services for business users.
In the connectivity rankings, Ireland retained its 2018 position of 12th, but improved its score from 57.2 to 62.6, placing it ahead of the EU average of 59.3. This score was particularly buoyed by top 10 rankings for four connectivity criteria: fast broadband take-up (10th, 54 per cent versus an average of 41 per cent); mobile broadband take-up (ninth); 5G connectivity (eighth, 30 per cent versus an average of 14 per cent); and fast broadband (NGA) coverage (fifth, 96 per cent versus 83 per cent). Despite this, the report accompanying the index says that Ireland “lacks a 5G connectivity strategy and a clear timetable for assigning the 700 MHz band”.
In the field of human capital, Ireland again retained its ranking from 2018 (11th) and improved its score, going from 52.2 to 53.8. This has been achieved through top 10 ranking in three of the section’s components: number of ICT specialists (eighth); number of female ICT specialists (fourth, 2 per cent versus an average of 1.2 per cent); and the rate of graduates possessing an ICT degree (second, 7 per cent versus an average of 3.5 per cent). These rankings mask poor showings in other criteria, however, with Ireland ranking 23rd in both the rate of people with at least basic digital skills (48 per cent versus an average of 57 per cent) and those with at least basic software skills (49 per cent versus 60 per cent).
Of the seven components that make up the integration of digital technology rankings, Ireland places outside of the top five in just one: electronic information sharing, where its 28 per cent rate falls well below the EU average of 34 per cent and places it at 19th in the EU. Ireland does, however rank first in both e-Commerce turnover (26 per cent versus 10 per cent) and selling online cross-border (17 per cent versus 8 per cent) in this field.
Finally, despite improving its rank for overall use of internet services from 13th to 12th, Ireland still has a level of use below the EU average. Only four of the field’s 13 criteria feature Ireland in the top 10: selling online (seventh); shopping online (10th); use of professional social networks (10th); and use of video on demand (sixth). Ireland’s worst rank in this field was for citizens using the internet to access news, where they ranked 25th out of 28, with only 65 per cent of users doing so, compared to an EU average of 72 per cent.