The number of Irish businesses selling online is significantly above the EU average as Ireland’s digital competitiveness among EU member states improved significantly in the past 12 months, according to a new report by the European Commission.
The latest annual Digital Economy and Society Index sees Ireland ranked in 5th place in terms of the most advanced digital economy in the EU after Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Ireland was previously ranked in 6th position in 2020 and was as low as 10th in 2017.
The index monitors the performance of economies in terms of human capital, broadband connectivity, e-commerce, and digital public services.
Ireland’s score in the 2021 index was 60.3 compared to the EU average of 50.7.
The report said Ireland performed very well on the integration of digital technology and maintained its high scores in the use of e-commerce by SMEs, while its performance for connectivity “improved substantially” last year.
It found digital public services were also strong, particularly in relation to open data, while it obtained a maximum score in relation to the provision of services to businesses.
However, it noted that basic digital skills levels among the general population at a rate of 53% were below the EU average of 56%.
“Further efforts to support the improvement of digital skills are important, as a relatively low percentage of the population, compared with the country’s overall digital performance, has at least basic digital and software skills,” the report added.
Overall, Ireland was ranked 8th of the EU’s 27 countries for human capital with a large increase in the number of ICT specialists – up from 4.9% in 2020 to 5.7% of the population this year.
The proportion of ICT graduates at 7.8% of all graduates is double the EU average of 3.9%.
At the same time, however, 53% of enterprises last year reported finding it difficult to fill vacancies for jobs requiring ICT specialist skills.
Despite the rapid growth in fixed VHCN (Very High Capacity Networks) coverage during 2020 when the figure increased from 35% to 83%, the report claimed the take-up of fast speed broadband of at least 100 Mbps was low at 31% of households compared to the EU average of 34%.
Ireland was ranked in seventh place overall on both connectivity and integration of digital technology.
The report revealed that 32% of Irish SMEs sell online with 18% selling across borders — well above the EU averages of 17% and 8% respectively.
It also highlighted how 27% of total turnover for SMEs is derived from online sales — more than double the EU average of 12%.
The report noted that the Department of the Taoiseach was developing a new National Digital Strategy which it said was expected to further develop Ireland’s leadership in new digital technologies including cloud computing, data analytics, blockchain, the internet of things, and AI which would build on increased levels of connectivity being delivered by the National Broadband Plan.
It acknowledged that Ireland also remained focus on accelerating the digitalisation of public services through further enhancing the government platform — gov.ie — and national open data portal as well as advancing a number of digital projects including the Digital Postbox which will allow citizens to receive and store correspondence from all public bodies in a secure electronic mailbox.
Ireland was ranked sixth overall for digital public services with the report observing there had been a notable increase in the annual number of transactions for people using their MyGovID account.