Cyprus needs to get connected after being ranked among the bottom five EU countries in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) published by the European Commission.
Despite having improved its score in all five areas covered by the Index, Cyprus still performed poorly compared to the EU average coming 24th out of 28 member states (including the UK).
“It still has a long way to go to improve its digital performance,” said the European Commission.
The DESI is a composite index that summarises relevant indicators on Europe’s digital performance and tracks the evolution of EU Member States in digital competitiveness.
Its 2020 reports are based on 2019 data, prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Covid-19 crisis shows how important it is to ensure the continuation of government activities when social distancing measures are in place.
A successful exit strategy to the current pandemic will require robust digital public services throughout the member states, including e-health,” the commission noted.
Cyprus lacking in digital connectivity was ranked 27, propped up by Bulgaria in last place, and after Greece.
Denmark had the highest score for digital connectivity on the DESI.
Although recording the most progress in connectivity and use of the internet, 13% of Cypriots have never used the internet while half lack basic digital skills, the Index report revealed.
Cyprus did rank above the EU average on mobile broadband, but it falls below the EU average on the take-up of fast broadband.
But Cyprus is a leader in fixed broadband coverage as 87% of households have access to the internet, well above the EU’s average of 78%.
Need for speed
However, when it comes to having a connection of at least 100 Mbps fixed broadband take-up, just 2% of Cypriot households enjoy such speeds.
It is believed one of the reasons for Cyprus performing so poorly in the above metric, is the fact that it is among the countries that offer the most expensive products, especially in mobile broadcast products.
Cyprus is among the three most expensive countries in almost all baskets above 100 Mbps.
The number of Cypriot e-government users fell since 2018, at 51% (against the EU average of 67%) of internet users submitting forms in 2019.
The Deputy Ministry of Innovation has issued a tender for the selection of a consulting firm to advise it on preparing the “Cyprus Broadband Plan 2021-2025” in compliance with the conditions set by the EU.
The “Cyprus Broadband Plan 2021-2025” is a new digital roadmap expected to be published this year, aiming to bring the country up to date with its EU obligation to implement the ‘1 GB society scheme’ by 2025.
The scheme foresees a majority of households with access to fast internet speeds, while some areas will have access to speeds of 1 GBps.
Cyprus’ roadmap also seeks to digitally transform the public sector, promote the digital transformation of the private sector, and champion innovation in line with the country’s level of digital maturity.
The DESI report said the island’s digital transformation was given a boost during the COVID-19 crisis.
“During the pandemic, Cyprus has taken a large number of targeted measures which have promoted the digital transformation of its society, including a dedicated call centre, interactive voice response and text messaging for any movement of citizens as well as a data register for tracking confirmed Covid-19 cases, a location tracker of suspected cases and a platform illustrating the spread of the virus”.