European Digital Academy aims to bring Digital Skills to European Citizens and SMEs

  • The European Digital Academy project (EDA), funded by the European Commission with support of the Parliament, wants to make basic knowledge on emerging technologies available and accessible to citizens and SMEs

  • The initiative will offer online learning modules on topics like AI, blockchain, and robotics via its Digital SkillUp portal

  • Over 40 digital skills experts convened at EDA’s first online seminar to hear the findings of desk research and interviews about digital skills needs, conducted by the project consortium

Europe needs digital skills now more than ever. As a result of social distancing, many businesses and citizens are forced to operate remotely. Exacerbating an already dire lack of digital skills across the continent, COVID-19 is hitting non-digitalised players particularly hard. At the same time, a wave of emerging technologies, such as AI, big data, blockchain, IoT, and robotics, is going to offer new opportunities to businesses and have a tremendous impact on society. However, for many business and citizens across Europe these technologies are hard to grasp. The brand new European Digital Academy initiative sets out to ameliorate this predicament.

In partnership with DIGITALEUROPE, European Schoolnet, Public Libraries 2030 and Reaktor, European DIGITAL SME Alliance has launched the project earlier this year. It is set to run for 18 months. Funded by the European Commission with support of the Parliament, the goal of the EDA is to make basic knowledge on emerging technologies available and accessible to all citizens and SMEs. Through an online training portal called Digital SkillUp, the project will online learning modules on topics like AI, Blockchain, robotics, cybersecurity and IoT for everyone.

Understanding Europe’s digital skills needs

To understand the current status of supply and demand of skills training, the project consortium has carried out an extensive mapping and analysis of digital skills needs and available training opportunities for citizens and SMEs. The main findings were presented to 40 stakeholders from all around Europe during the first Online Seminar on 19 May. The stakeholders include representatives of European SMEs, citizen organisations, vocational education and training providers, top digital skills experts, and EU decision makers.

Understanding the situation is key to improving it. The current digital skills gap counts 1,000,000 missing digitally skilled workers in Europe. At the same time, DESI forecasts that in the future, 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills. Experts call it one of the biggest challenges to our future economy and society. While there is a growing need to equip citizens and SMEs with the knowledge of emerging technologies, experts indicate that there is still a gap of knowledge on basic digital skills.

A brighter future through digital skills for Europe

Skills are the prerequisite for a successful digital transformation of the economy. But what is the desired future for digital skills in Europe? What kind of skills are needed exactly, and what is a plausible way to introduce them to Europe’s workforce? The experts developed deep dives into different digital skills scenarios in an interactive brainstorming session. The results will guide the development of the learning modules and serve as an idea on where we want to go with digital skills in Europe.

If Europe manages to elevate the digital skills level, the future can be bright. There is evidence pointing to “substantial returns to ICT-literacy, i.e. the ability to solve problems using ICT-based applications (e.g. Internet browser, email, word processing, spreadsheet tools)”. In addition, “IT skills can compensate for the lack of higher formal qualifications” while formal education cannot compensate for a lack of IT skills.

Follow the European Digital Academy project

Are you interested in learning more and staying in touch? You can download all workshop materials and learn about our initial findings and experts’ best practices here.

Meanwhile, the online training portal Digital SkillUp will be available by the end of 2020 to all citizens and SMEs across Europe. Anyone offering online training courses can submit their own skills training here. Further, you can follow the activities of the Academy by signing up to our newsletter. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to drop us an email. We look forward to hearing from you!