How many people in the EU have basic digital skills?

  • Over half of people in the European Union had at least basic digital skills in 2021, new data shows.
  • The Netherlands, Finland and Ireland scored highest, says Eurostat.
  • While Romania, Bulgaria and Poland had the lowest share.
  • Digital inclusion that will help 1 billion people globally is the key aim of the EDISON Alliance, a World Economic Forum initiative.

Do you know how to read online news sites, send an instant message, use word processing software or manage access to your personal data?

These are some of the basic digital skills that the European Union has been measuring across its 27 member countries.

Of people aged between 16 and 74 in the EU in 2021, more than half (54%) have “at least basic overall digital skills,” says Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU.

This means they know how to do at least one activity related to each of the following five areas: information and data literacy skills, communication and collaboration skills, digital content creation skills, safety skills, and problem solving skills.

COVID-19 has exposed digital inequities globally and exacerbated the digital divide. Most of the world lives in areas covered by a mobile broadband network, yet more than one-third (2.9 billion people) are still offline. Cost, not coverage, is the barrier to connectivity.

At The Davos Agenda 2021, the World Economic Forum launched the EDISON Alliance, the first cross-sector alliance to accelerate digital inclusion and connect critical sectors of the economy.

Through the 1 Billion Lives Challenge, the EDISON Alliance aims to improve 1 billion lives globally through affordable and accessible digital solutions across healthcare, financial services and education by 2025.

Read more about the EDISON Alliance’s work in our Impact Story.

A chart showing people with at least basic overall digital skills in 2021

54% of Europeans in 2021 had at least basic digital skills.

Image: Eurostat

Advancing digital skills

At 79% each, the Netherlands and Finland score the highest on basic overall digital skills. Ireland is next, with 70%.

Romania, Bulgaria and Poland show the lowest share of basic overall digital skills, at 28%, 31% and 43% respectively.

Eurostat says digital skills are a key indicator in the European Commission’s Digital Decade initiative. This outlines the EU’s vision for digital transformation by 2030. Goals include at least 80% of EU citizens aged between 16 to 74 having at least basic digital skills by 2030.

Image: Twitter/@DigitalEU

What are basic digital skills?

Examples of data literacy skills include finding information online about goods or services or reading online newspapers, Eurostat explains.

Communication and collaboration skills include sending and receiving emails and using social media.

Digital content creation skills include using word processing or spreadsheet software and editing photos, video or audio files.

Safety skills relate to things like limiting access to profile or content on social media sites and changing internet browser settings.

Problem solving skills include selling online, internet banking and installing software or apps.

Digital inclusion vision

Helping everyone to take part affordably in the digital economy is also the vision of the EDISON Alliance. This is a World Economic Forum initiative launched in 2021 to accelerate digital inclusion.

The Alliance says 2.9 billion people (37% of the world) do not use the internet. By 2025, the EDISON Alliance hopes to improve 1 billion lives globally by accelerating digital solutions in health, finance and education that are affordable and accessible.

The Reskilling Revolution is another Forum initiative that hopes to provide one billion people with better education, skills and jobs by 2030.

Launched in 2020 with partners including the governments of Brazil, France and India, the project aims to help upskill and reskill workers for technology-driven change in the workplace.

Alongside technology skills like data and cloud computing, there’s also a growing need for interpersonal skills like creativity and collaboration, the Forum says – as well as specialized skills related to sales, education, human resources and other areas.