By Andria Kades
Cyprus is progressing slowly in its digitisation, ranking 21st out of 28 EU member states in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) for 2018, published on Friday.
With a score of 49.3, the report outlined “Cyprus is progressing slowly but steadily.” Along with Ireland and Spain, it progressed by more than 15 points over the last four years.
It belongs to the low performing cluster of countries which are Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Cyprus and Slovakia.
The average Desi score for the cluster was 43.5 in 2018.
According to the European Commission, Cyprus performs well “in fixed, fast and ultrafast broadband coverage and in fixed and mobile broadband take-up” but still lags behind in supply and demand for e-government services.
In terms of connectivity, the report noted Cyprus ranked 19th, compared to 20th a year before and it was still behind in 4G coverage, fast and ultrafast broadband uptake and the broadband price index.
The report is divided in five parts with connectivity, human capital, use of internet, integration of digital technology and digital public services.
Scoring 24th in human capital, an improvement by one rank since 2017, the commission outlined that last year, 79 per cent of the Cypriot population used the internet regularly (versus 74 per cent in 2016), but only 50 per cent possessed at least basic digital skills.
“Moreover, Cyprus has a low share of science, technology, engineering and math (Stem) graduates (9.8), ranking lowest among EU countries. The country has also a lower share of ICT specialists in the workforce (2.2 per cent) than the EU average (3.7 per cent).”
According to the report, ICT professionals do not receive the necessary IT training, because the academic programmes do not meet the needs of the industry with regard to ICT qualifications.
The education ministry has prepared an action plan to improve educational outcomes, prioritising STEM graduates set to begin in the 2018-2019 school year.
When it came to use of the internet, users in Cyprus were found to engage in a wide range of online activities, such as reading news online, listening to music, watching films and playing games online, using the internet to communicate via voice or video calls and participating in social networks.
“For most of these activities, engagement among Cypriots is higher than overall in the EU.”
However, only 34 per cent of individuals are using eBanking services and 39 per cent shopping online. A survey carried out by Cyprus’ statistical service showed that the main factor holding back the development of e-commerce is that 48.3 per cent of Cypriots using the internet prefer to shop in person.
The second reason is that there is a lack of a payment card for payments over the internet, at 25.3 per cent and thirdly that there is a lack of digital skills, at 18.4 per cent.
Security and privacy concerns are fourth, at 15.6 per cent.
As far as integrating digital technology is concerned, the report noted that Cyprus is progressing slowly.
“Companies do engage in the use of social media and do trade online, but are less inclined to take up new technologies such as Cloud and RFID. “
Cyprus continued to remain below the EU average in digital public services however it noted progress compared to last year, scoring 58, while the EU average is 53.
According to the report, the government will introduce training programmes to improve citizens’ digital skills, putting emphasis on the use of digital services.
It also highlighted government portal Ariadni, providing around 65 e-services online.