Friday 28 October 2016

EU scores Ireland well in eCommerce, but broadband lagging

Published 26/02/2016 | 02:30

Ireland lags other European countries when it comes to overall broadband coverage and adoption, particularly in rural areas.
Ireland lags other European countries when it comes to overall broadband coverage and adoption, particularly in rural areas.
The digital scorecard

Ireland is excelling at eCommerce and using technology at work, according to the European Commission's latest Digital Scoreboard.

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However, we badly lag other European countries when it comes to overall broadband coverage and adoption, particularly in rural areas.

The Commission ranks Ireland first of 28 EU countries at incorporating technology at work, a jump from third place last year. Ireland scores especially well in eCommerce and online sales compared to EU rivals with the Commission finding that a third (32pc) of Irish small to medium sized businesses sell products or services online.

This is twice the average among European small businesses, which stands at just 16pc.

Similarly, Irish small and medium-sized businesses record 19pc of turnover from eCommerce activities, compared to an average of 9pc of turnover across the rest of the EU.

Ireland also tops the European tables when it comes to selling online across borders, with 16pc of small and medium-sized firms trading on the internet with cross-border business partners. This compares to a European average of just 7.5pc.

Furthermore, we rank second in Europe at using social media for business purposes.

But Ireland has some catching up to do on more fundamental digital access across society, according to the Commission data.

Prices for fixed broadband in Ireland are almost double the EU average when measured as a proportion of income. In terms of cost, fixed broadband prices in Ireland went up, putting Ireland in 23rd place out of the 28.

While the country has risen from 16th to 13th in broadband connectivity, Ireland badly trails other EU countries when it comes to digital skills, rural broadband and overall takeup of broadband throughout the country.

"The digital skills of the population exhibit significant gaps, with only 44pc of the population having sufficient digital skills to operate effectively online," said the European Commission. "This places [Ireland] 22nd out of 28 countries for this indicator. The EU average is 55pc."

There is also a serious skills shortage affecting the country, according to the Commission.

"Ireland is lacking skilled ICT professionals," said the Digital Scorecard report.

"Demand for skilled ICT professionals within the economy has been rising while the supply is not keeping pace. Around half of enterprises trying to employ ICT specialists report difficulties doing so."

Meanwhile, Ireland ranks 20th out of 28 EU countries on broadband take-up. This is partly due to rural broadband takeup being so poor compared to other EU countries, with just 8pc of rural Ireland covered by fast broadband compared to a European average of 25pc.

Online media consumption is also far behind other European countries, with Ireland ranking last in the EU when it comes to looking up news online.

However, Irish people are among Europe's most avid consumers of on-demand video services such as Netflix, ranking fifth out of 28 EU countries.

Overall, Ireland came first in the EU for integration of digital technology by business.

The Commission says that businesses in Ireland still have room to improve, particularly on electronic information sharing.

The Digital Scoreboard ranks EU countries according to several criteria: connectivity, skills, internet use and the integration of digital technology in business, public services and everyday life.

Irish Independent

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