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Less than a fifth of European companies will use AI by 2030, Digital Decade report reveals

The EU’s digital transformation is running late – just like everyone else’s. What do this mean for the future of tech across The Continent?

Photo by Christian Lue / Unsplash

 The European Union’s Digital Decade grand plan to digitally transform Europe by 2030 is running late and is seriously lagging when it comes to AI, according to a new update.

The Digital Decade strategy is supposed to result in a “a human-centric, sustainable vision for digital society…to empower citizens and businesses."

Key multi country-projects span a range of areas, including quantum and cybersecurity, 5G, HPC, and common data infrastructure and services. It also includes Blockchain – which seemed like a good idea back in 2020.

The Second Report on the Digital Decade, released yesterday, shows that “in the current scenario, the collective efforts of Member States will fall short of the EU's level of ambition.”

As a result, Brussels has issued a call for “for strengthened action to Member States to be more ambitious.”

The report identified particular shortfalls in digital skills, connectivity, semiconductor production, start-up ecosystems and uptake of AI and data analytics by enterprises.

The latter highlights one of the problems with grand tech strategies – new technology happens. Quickly. AI didn’t appear in the original vision, though HPC and analytics did.

An EU official, speaking on background this week, said: “There is now more evidence that AI and genetic data in particular will play a key role in the future prosperity of Europe and on how we are going to shape our society.”

But, the study showed: “If we project in 2030…only 17% of companies in Europe will have a take-up of AI and this is certainly not sufficient.”

Likewise, less than two thirds of firms will use the cloud, with just half using big data. The target was 75% for all those categories.

A related issue is a lack of digital skills, the official said. “There is no way that we can succeed in our transformation without the population having the skills necessary to access it. And also to have the experts, the ICT specialists, which are still very short.”

SMEs in particular struggled to secure the skilled people needed to reap the benefits and value of AI, and develop services themselves.

Using Gen AI to find information was one thing, “but it's very different adjusting that system to the need for a specific business for the company.”

This again raised the issue of skills, and of fostering a broader ecosystem. It was also important that skills and infrastructure were diffused outside of big companies and big urban centres, the official said.

The rise of Gen AI drove home the point that: “If you want to be successful in the digital transformation, you can not have gaps.” That meant skills but also the cloud, the infrastructure, the hardware, and edge nodes.

“With member states, we need to look at the different dimensions and make sure that we are progressing on all of them," the official said. "Otherwise, we are going to miss the whole picture.”

Still, at least Europe is not alone in this regard.