The President of the European Commission defended on Tuesday that “Portugal is already a digital leader in many areas”. At the Champalimaud Foundation, during a visit to Lisbon where he took the opportunity to present the European recovery and resilience plan, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ursula von der Leyen gave the example of the Web Summit to underline the idea that “Lisbon continues to be the spiritual capital of the technological sector”. And he went further:
Portugal is already a digital leader in many areas and is recovering rapidly in others ”, said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
The Observer contacted the European Commission press office in Portugal to understand which areas Von der Leyen was referring to when he said that Portugal was a “digital leader”, and what criteria were considered to determine this position leader. But in the indexes and rankings listed, the country’s evolution in various parameters of integration and access to online services is highlighted – except that there is no reference to a leading position.
One of the indicators put forward by the European Commission is the 2020 Digital Economy and Society Index (IDES). In this document, in which the most recent “digital progress” of the various states is assessed members, “Portugal ranks 19th” among the 28 countries assessed.
“The progress in the dimension of human capital” and the “good performance” of digital public services deserve to be highlighted, “being one of the EU countries with the best results in this area, although it has fallen by one place compared to the ranking of the previous year ”. But it is also stressed that “the country continues to record mediocre performance, by European standards, in terms of human capital and use of Internet services”. In terms of connectivity, “Portugal fell by one place” compared to the previous year, while guaranteeing an “overall score above average”. The document also specifies that, in the parameter “digital in companies”, the country is down five places (in 16th position).
Translate by the numbers: in a universe of 28 countries, Portugal is the 12th country with the best “connectivity” (the most favorable position of all those evaluated in IDES), it is in 13th place in terms of “public services” digital ”” (One position below that of 2019), is 16th in “the integration of digital technologies” (down five positions) and 21st in the “human capital” parameter (two places below the last ranking) .
In short, none of the points evaluated within the framework of the FDI place Portugal in a position of “digital leader”.
The European Commission representative office in Lisbon, in its response to the Observer, also refers to the country as the point of origin for “leading digital companies in sophisticated niches, with high performing startups. in complex digital sectors, with a strong link to science ”. And he gives the examples of Feedzai, in the field of the fight against fraud by artificial intelligence, and of Veniam, with a paternity assumed by two professors from the universities of Porto and Aveiro. Again, these successes do not make the country a “digital leader”.
The Commission refers, in the same clarification, to the classification of the European Union on administrative simplification programs, in a comparison between 2006 and the current reality. In particular, the categories “Availability of online services” and “Sophistication of online services” are mentioned. The results obtained in these two areas are, in fact, more favorable than the evaluation of FDI 2020. In the first case, the country went from 10th to 3rd place, behind Austria and Malta; in the second case, there was a jump from 11th to 4th place, with only Malta, Slovenia and Austria in the lead.
The European Commission office also cites a study carried out in April this year by IDATE’s consultant for Fiber To The Home Council Europe, in which it is concluded that Portugal is the country with the highest percentage of coverage. fiber optic in rural areas (with 53% of houses covered, ahead of Spain with 42% and Sweden with 38%). This point – fiber optic coverage in rural areas – is the only one where the country appears to be the best rated.
On the other hand, the World Ranking of Digital Competitiveness 2020 from the Institute for Management Development (IMD, which again had the collaboration of Porto Business School) places Portugal in 37th position, among the 63 countries considered. Despite improvements in the areas of “knowledge” (with 33rd place) and technology (38th place), poor performance in metrics such as “Preparing for the Future” (41st place) contributed to the loss of national competitiveness in the digital field. In the European context, and according to the IMD ranking, only eight countries have a lower score than Portugal.
Ursula von der Leyen said in Lisbon that “Portugal is already a digital leader in many areas”. Recent governments have paid particular attention to the issue of digital transition, but no ranking or index places the country at this level of leadership. There is data that indicates good performance in partial metrics (as either IDES or the Swiss IMD ranking concludes), but there is still a long way to go before Portugal can see itself as a ‘digital leader’.
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