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Cyprus climbs digital ladder

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Despite Cyprus improving its ranking on the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index by three places, the country still sits among the poor performers.

As announced by the European Commission, Cyprus has edged up three spots on the DESI Index (2021), from 24 to 21, but below the EU average.

According to the report, Cyprus has improved its performance in almost all DESI categories, although it still scored below the EU average in most cases.

Cyprus gathered an overall 43.5 points in its evaluation, compared to 44 last year, with the Deputy Ministry of Innovation; however, noting this is due to a change in the methodology employed this year by researchers.

The EU average stood at 50.7, while last year, the average was 52.6.

Progress has been made in connectivity, as the island ranked above the EU average on mobile broadband take-up, has improved its coverage of Very High Capacity Networks (VHCN).

Indicatively, the island scores 67% in the 5G readiness indicator, which means that the biggest part of the 5G pioneer spectrum harmonised at the EU level has already been assigned.

However, the country is still well below the EU average in the take-up of fast broadband.

Cyprus is among six countries, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, and Czechia, with the most expensive broadband connections.

According to the Index report, almost one in two Cypriots lack basic digital skills.

“With growing demand for ICT specialists and jobs becoming even more driven by digital technology, EU employers are looking for staff with the necessary skills to satisfy the growing demand for ICT specialists and workers able to use the digital technologies properly.

“We observe a slow but overall increase of students pursuing and graduating in ICT domains. In 2019, 3.9% of Europeans graduated with an ICT diploma,” the report said.

Cyprus, along with Italy, Belgium, Portugal, are among the countries with the lowest share of ICT graduates (below 3%) in the EU.

Recently, Innovation and Digitisation deputy minister Kyriacos Kokkinos acknowledged Cyprus’ shortage of IT talent and professionals, saying it is the biggest challenge the country faces on its path to digitalisation.

Kokkinos said the IT sector is currently short 3,500 professionals.

In charge of implementing the country’s strategy to digitalise its economy and society, the junior ministry said the index “reveals the effectiveness of the digital solutions that have already been implemented”.

“The multidimensional action developed by the state to achieve our digital strategic goals, within the national Recovery and Resilience Plan, includes actions with a digital texture of €282 mln (corresponding to 23% of total investments).

“The strategy will contribute substantially to economic growth and productivity, to achieve digital transformation of the public sector (e-government), promote the digital transformation of the private sector, facilitate high-speed network connectivity, and promote innovation in line with the country’s level of digital maturity.

“The leap that Cyprus has achieved makes us very happy; however, it is only the beginning of the journey towards digital transformation.

“Our country is still behind the EU average. We have a long way to go before we can reach the desired levels and take the lead in international developments,” said the ministry statement.