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Digital transformation adoption in Italy (DESI 2022)

Italy ranks 18th out of 27 EU Member States in the 2022 edition of the Digital Economy and SocietyIndex (DESI). As the third largest EU economy, Italy’s progress in the digital transformation over the coming years is crucial to enable the EU as a whole to reach the 2030 Digital Decade targets. Italy is catching up and, looking at the progress of its DESI score over the past five years, it is advancing at a remarkable pace1.

In recent years, digital issues have gained political traction notably with the establishment of a ministry responsible for digital affairs, the adoption of several key strategies and the launch of many policy measures.

That said, there are still gaps in the digital transformation to be overcome.

Giving continuity to the initiatives undertaken and leveraging on the many assets which Italy has would allow the country to further improve its performance in the DESI. The Recovery and Resilience Plan, the largest in Europe, endows it with the necessary funds to accelerate the digital transformation.

Moreover, the country has a strong industrial base and research communities in key areas such as Artificial Intelligence, High performance computing and quantum. These strengths should be leveraged to deploy digital in all areas of the economy in the full respect of the human centric approach promoted by the Digital Principles.

Looking at this year’s indicators, Italy is narrowing the gap with the EU when it comes to basic digital skills, however still more than half of Italian people do not have at least basic digital skills. The share of digital specialists on the Italian workforce is below the EU average and future prospects are undermined by low rates of ICT enrolment and graduates. A significant change of pace in Italy’s digital Digital Economy and Society Index 2022 Italy skills’ readiness is crucial for the EU to reach the Digital Decade target on basic digital and ICT specialists.

For Connectivity, there has been progress in terms of both take-up of broadband services and network deployment. Shortcomings remain in the coverage of Very High Capacity Networks (including fiber-tothe-premises), which is still far from the EU average and the Digital Decade target of universal coverage by 2030.

Most Italian small and medium enterprises (60%) have at least a basic level of digital intensity and, in particular, the use of cloud services recorded a significant growth. While Italy is well placed in this dimension and these figures lay the foundation for a strong contribution to the Digital Decade targets for business digitalisation, the uptake of other key technologies such as big data and Artificial Intelligence is still quite limited.

Italy is making progress in the supply of digital public services closing in on the EU average. Ongoing efforts need to be continued to enable Italy to achieve the Digital Decade target of 100% online provision of key public services for EU citizens and businesses and to fully deploy the electronic health record. Although only 40% of Italian internet users use digital public services (against an EU average of 65%), this indicator recorded a remarkable growth in the last two years (increasing by 10 percentage points between 2020 and 2022).

Looking at the policy developments, during the past years, Italy has heightened the focus on digital and put in place numerous measures to foster the digital transformation of the country. The Recovery and Resilience Plan is giving further boost and accelerating progress. Between January 2021 and March 2022, the government launched the public tenders to foster the development of fixed Gigabit connectivity and 5G mobile coverage in market failure areas across Italy. Furthermore, to sustain demand, the government launched a voucher scheme dedicated to SMEs: with a total budget of over EUR 600 million, it facilitates the activation of broadband internet connections from 30 Mbps to more than 1 Gbps with minimum guaranteed bandwidth.

In 2021 and 2022 there were numerous developments in the area of digitalisation of public administrations and public services, starting from the publication of the ‘Strategia Cloud Italia’ (Italian Cloud strategy). In 2022 the national population digital register (ANPR) was completed. The uptake of e-ID (‘SPID’ and ‘CIE’) and of the app ‘IO’ (the mobile app to access digital public services) kept increasing. However, the deployment and uptake of the electronic health record remains limited and scattered across regions.

The initiatives to support digital skills development continued to be activated and strengthened under the umbrella of the National Strategy for Digital Skills and its operational plan. In this context, the government established a new special fund (‘Fondo per la Repubblica Digitale’) that promotes initiatives to increase digital skills levels.

Moreover, the government approved a new programme and national plan to foster personalized labour market plans, the programme ‘GOL’ (programme for Guaranteed Employability of Workers and National Plan for New Skills). Another important development was the adoption of the Strategic Program on Artificial Intelligence 2022-2024, which includes recommendations to strengthen competences and attract talents.

Digital Economy and Society Index 2022 Italy Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Italian authorities took action to supervise the implementation of the EU sanctions, including the ban of Russian state-controlled media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik. The Italian government and AGCOM are working in close cooperation and keeping an open dialogue and exchange of information with the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on technical aspects related to the application of Regulation 2022/3502. Furthermore, AGCOM set up a permanent table to exchange information on all initiatives taken by Italian operators in support of the Ukrainian population.

The National Cybersecurity Agency (ACN) issued a recommendation inviting public and private entities to urgently perform an analysis of the risksstemming from the use of cybersecurity solutions provided by companies with ties to the Russian Federation (that, given the situation, they might not be able to provide proper support and updates) and to consider diversification strategies. The Law Decree n. 21/2022 of March 21st – concerning urgent measures to counter the economic and humanitarian effects of the Ukrainian crisis – established, among others, that Public Administrations have to promptly adopt diversification strategies for the relevant categories of products and services.