The UK has the sixth best digital economy in Europe

Lynsey Barber
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The UK's digital economy is one of the strongest in Europe (Source: Getty)

The UK is one of Europe's leading digital economies, ranking as the sixth best country in Europe a new report has found.

It's ahead of the majority of the rest of Europe when it comes to digital in areas such as connectivity, internet use and the integration of digital technology, according to the European Commission (EC).

The UK came in sixth place just behind Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland and Belgium.

The new report on how digital the 28 countries of the EU are, found there was a large disparity among them and that borders remain an obstacle to a digital single market - a major goal of EC president Jean-Claude Juncker.

The UK has made progress on connectivity with increased number of fast broadband connections and falling prices of fast connections, according to the Digital Economy and Society Index.

Huge leaps have been made in terms of digital public services, climbing five places in the ranking as more people use the government's online services, climbing from 24 per cent in 2013 to 37 per cent in 2014.

However, the report warned progress needed to be made in deploying fiber connections in the UK, and that the number of trained IT and digital professionals needed to increase to serve growing demand for these skills.

“While the proportion of ICT specialists in total employment, at 4.2 per cent, is relatively high and the proportion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates is also above the average for the EU, the UK is lacking skilled ICT professionals.

“Demand for skilled ICT professionals within the economy is rising rapidly, while the supply is not keeping pace. In particular, graduate numbers have fallen substantially since a decade ago. More young people need to be attracted to ICT studies and jobs, which provide good career opportunities, are well paid and which are key skills for deriving the benefits of ICT for the economy and society,” the report said.

Internet usage remained the same, ranked at 10th in the EU overall, while video calls and online banking increasing, compensating for a fall in music, videos and games use online.

The integration of digital technology is the worst area of the UK’s digital economy, with business in particular reluctant to exploit them, the report found, however social media uptake was high.

“The adoption of digital technologies is an important driver of labour productivity growth and needs to be strengthened. The percentage of businesses using technologies such as electronic information sharing (ERP - 12 per cent) and RFID (1.6 per cent), are very low and the UK ranks second to last in the EU for these two indicators. In terms of eInvoices and Cloud take-up UK businesses perform similar to the EU average. However, take-up of social media, at 28 per cent of enterprises, is advanced. Domestic eCommerce by SMEs is somewhat more widespread in the UK than in other EU countries. Turnover from eCommerce is at a similar rate to the EU average, as is the percentage of SMEs that sell online cross-border.

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