UK stuck in EU pack for digital services

A new indicator from the European Commission shows the UK is well off the lead for its performance on e-government and e-health

The UK is stuck in the pack for the provision of digital public services among EU member states, according to a new indicator published by the European Commission.

UK flagScores on the Digital Economic and Society Index (DESI) show the UK ranks higher than most other members with a score of 0.48, but is only 10th in the overall ranking and lags well behind the leaders. Denmark tops the table with 0.84 followed by the Netherlands with 0.79 and 0.75.

The figures, from data collected in 2013 and 2014, have been calculated as a weighted average of national performance in the provision of e-government and e-health services. For e-government this is divided into 25% each for the number of users, availability of pre-filled forms, online service completion and open data. For e-health it comprises a straight split between medical data exchange and e-prescriptions.

The one area in which the UK leads is in the provision of open data, but it is almost at the foot of the table for the availability of pre-filled forms.

Overall, the indicator shows there are wide variations in the provision of digital public services by EU members. In an accompanying statement the European Commission described them as "an everyday reality in some countries but almost non-existent in others".

European averages

From the data collected by the Commission, it highlights that 33% of European internet users have used online forms to send information to public authorities, ranging from 69% in Denmark to 6% in Romania. On the e-health front, 26% of general practitioners use e-prescriptions, but this varies from 100% in Estonia to 0% in Malta.

The figures on online public services are part of the broader indicator on digital progress in the EU. They can be broken down to provide scores on dimensions including connectivity, human capital, internet usage and integration of digital technology, then into sub-dimensions and individual areas such as banking, e-commerce, broadband coverage and take-up and e-skills.

Andrus Ansip, vice president for the Digital Single Market, said: "The vast majority of Europeans are going online; citizens want to access online content, and we need to make it easier for them.

"A Digital Single Market can give them wider access, help businesses innovate and grow, and boost trust in online services like e-government or banking. The European Commission will help make it happen."

The DESI has been prepared in advance of the Commission's publication of its Digital Single Market strategy, which is scheduled for May. It will be aimed at creating the right conditions for people and businesses to make better use of digital technology across borders, while the Commission said the data shows that national borders still provide obstacles.

Image: "P UK Flag". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons