Project partners will carry out a comprehensive mapping and stock taking of digital entrepreneurship dynamics in the countries involved and identify common trends in digital skills application to entrepreneurship, best practices and tools. From those factors, partners will determine what does and does not work, and the "DOs" and "DONTs" in digital entrepreneurship in VET environment.
The product of this stage of the DEEP project will be a report on the dynamics of digital entrepreneurship in VET.
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The European Priorities for 2019 - 2024 concentrate their efforts at strengthening the digital transformation for individuals and businesses. The three main pillars created in this respect are aimed at: 1) securing that technology supports European societies, 2) assuring fair and competitive digital economy, and 3) supporting open, democratic and sustainable society. The overall strategy of such an approach is to guarantee that the EU will create a global model for the digital economy, which protects digital standards and supports economies in going digital.
While the demand for digital skills is boosted by the digitalisation of all sectors, the supply is undermined by lack of proper training and limited use of technology for education purposes. In 2019, 9% of all the EU companies, including 46% of large EU enterprises, recruited or tried to recruit ICT specialists. At the same time, the share of companies that report having had hard-to-fill vacancies for ICT specialists has increased between 2012 and 2019 by 2 pp for all EU companies and has almost doubled for the large enterprises (from 17% to 30%).
The DEEP data collected in this project confirm that over 40% of companies that took part in this study miss some elements of the digital competences needed in their entrepreneurial activity. The competences mostly seek by companies and missing among the individuals include:
- Ability to protect personal data and privacy (60% of the European companies)
- Ability to solve technical problems (58% of the European companies)
- Ability to identify needs and technological responses (58% of the European companies)
- Ability to manage digital identity, ability to elaborate and re-elaborate digital content and programming (54% of the European companies).
The same DEEP study reveals that individuals' perception about the competences they lack in order to be competitive on the labour market are very much in line with those identified by employers. The following competences were listed as completely lacking by individuals:
- Programming (67% of individuals)
- Ability to identify digital competence gaps by themselves (42% of individuals)
- Ability to identify needs and technological responses (40% of individuals)
- Ability to solve technical problems (40% of individuals).
While the importance of technology and ICT has been deeply grounded and recognized by EU- level, entrepreneurship skills per se has been out of priority scope until the recent decade. Thus, no comprehensive evaluation of the entrepreneurial skills proficiency is available at the EU level.
Country analysis summarised below reassures that the digital entrepreneurship skill shortages persist at the national level as well. In addition, this study was aimed at the examination of the national strategies and policies supporting EU efforts in digital entrepreneurship skills transformation, and at the identification of national barriers for further consideration.
According to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) in 2019 Bulgaria was the worst performing country in relation to digital skills. Bulgaria is also among the most laggard countries when the European Index of Digital Entrepreneurial System (EIDES) is concerned. On the other hand, in general, national policies in Bulgaria addressing the challenges related to the digital-entrepreneurship skills are adequate, with several well-specified goals and with the aim to attract the involvement of many stakeholders - business, policy makers and civil organization at the national and regional level. Moreover, the country has implemented different policy tools such as strategies, action plans and concepts to successfully embed the innovative competences. The elements still missing, which make the overall system inefficient include the lack of innovative education approaches, too little collaboration between the public and private sector, and the need to improve the collaboration between the business and schools.
Despite its status of G7 country, Italy ranks at the bottom of the ICT cultural embracement among all 27 Member States and one of the most digitally tardive countries worldwide. Despite the investment and the efforts of the Government, Italians are the most digitally unskilled and not surprisingly the one who struggle the most with digital technologies. On the top of that Italy has one of the most underperforming entrepreneurial environments among all occidental countries, and in some traits, comparable to the results of many second and third world economies. The biggest threats faced by a digitalised renewal of Italian SMEs are represented by two aspects that needs adequate consideration: low interest of SMEs to invest in ICT, and insufficient reach of microenterprises. The cultural attachment to traditional models is so deeply rooted that the digital transformation of the country might require much longer and much more social efforts than expected. The resilience of the Italian economic and entrepreneurial ecosystem for further competitive landscapes also depends on a reliable, smart and inclusive education and training plan centred on digital entrepreneurial widespread across all formal/non-formal VET settings.
Poland is far below all European countries in terms of possessing digital skills and abilities by individual (it ranks 25 out of 28 European countries in DESI Index). Polish adults' performance in such skills as literacy, numeracy and problem solving is one of the weakest in the EU as well. Almost half of the Polish adults cannot use the computer. When it comes to the entrepreneurial skills, also here Poland is ranked as the country with one of the weakest digital entrepreneurial ecosystems across EU countries. Poland belongs to the so called Laggers Group, which means that the country does not catch up to the rest of the EU countries. Unfortunately, digitalisation and development of digital skills are still understood narrowly by Polish policy makers. Investments in digital skills are often reduced to the development of infrastructure and provision of the necessary hardware and software, rather than in the development of human skills and competences. This applies also to entrepreneurs, who are still not willing to use even simple software to facilitate the circulation of documents or issue invoices. The adequately crafted VET system is important to improve the digital entrepreneurship performance in the country.
Since 2015 Portugal is a medium-performance country according to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). The country greatest challenge has been to overcome the severe digital skills deficit of its citizens, particularly among the elderly and those with low levels of education or income. In terms of the Digital Entrepreneurship Systems Portugal is a catcher-up country (EIDES), meaning that despite being below the EU average, its develop is growing in a way that allows to catch up the European leaders. Entrepreneurship in Portugal has been seen as key to the development of the Portuguese national economy - a driver to boost employment, business diversification and innovation. During the last ten years Portugal set forth several political instruments to foster both digital and entrepreneurship skills. Nevertheless, secondary education and vocational training scarcely address entrepreneurship and there is plenty of room to develop methodologies and programmes with positive effects in terms of development of digital entrepreneurial competences.
Spain ranks 11th out of 28 EU Member States in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). Nevertheless, still around one fifth of people in Spain are not yet online and close to half of them still lack basic digital skills. On the top of that, despite the growing demand for digital skills on the labour market, the supply of ICT specialists is still below the EU average. Spain has good telecommunications and technology infrastructures, but there is an ample room for improvement in the digitalisation process by companies, which have the means but lack trained professional and digital culture. National policies already in 2015 started implementing modifications to the regulatory framework of the education system in order to meet objectives of the "European Digital Agenda". Also many projects, and initiatives has been implemented at the national and regional level supporting digital entrepreneurship skills. Nevertheless, a high degree of skills mismatches in companies limit their capacity to innovate and capitalize from innovation. The current situation of digital competences in Spain is seen as not only the responsibility and consequence of the educational system, but also of the companies, which should adapt their business models and introduce upskilling of their employees.
To sum up, while the EU tool leads to the establishment of the inclusive and comprehensive framework for digital entrepreneurship skills development, some Member States still seem to be at the forefront of conceptualisation and implementation of the relevant policy initiatives. The country analysis has revealed some obstacles in policy implementations supporting the EU strategy. First of all, the policy responses related to digital entrepreneurship should be addressed to several stakeholders. While there are countries, like Poland, where still the infrastructure is being developed, and in consequence, less attention is paid to the development of digital entrepreneurship skills, in other countries, like Spain, more effort is placed on the modifications of the educational system, and human upskilling. Nevertheless, in both countries, the clear reluctance from the companies side is observed, in being engaged in the digital transformation. Therefore, the engagement of different stakeholders is a key element for stable improvement of the situation. Secondly, the initiatives should be undertaken at multiple levels - not only national, but also regional and local. In Italy, for example, where the business is still perceived in very traditional way, social engagement and change of perception starting at the local level, might be a key in the successful implementation of digital transformation. Last, but not least, all countries analysed struggle with the shortages in the educational systems. It mainly includes the need of implementation of innovative education approaches, new methods of learning, improvement of the relationship between the businesses and the schools, the inclusion of more practical exercises and experiences by educational institutions, and the upskilling of teachers in proper digital entrepreneurship competences.