Successful Europe: unlocking a trillion Euro opportunity


Digital & Data Governance

Picture of Ben Wreschner
Ben Wreschner

Chief Economist at the Vodafone Group

We have stepped into Europe’s Digital Decade and now we need to press on, with urgency.

Digital transformation can support jobs and business, while also speeding up Europe’s competitiveness. To achieve this, we need to see a renewed drive across the continent towards investment in our digital infrastructure, which can be facilitated with new forms of public-private partnerships. Alongside infrastructure, we need to boost access to digital education, skills and learning to unlock job opportunities.

These steps are critical as we all seek to build back better following the pandemic. Europe is at an inflexion point. There is a window of opportunity for Europe to lead the world and leverage a digital transformation that will boost the continent’s competitiveness on the world stage.

To seize that opportunity, we must work together. All three Connected Europe clusters bring together policymakers, major stakeholders, business and industrial leaders and young people from across Europe to shape a future that works for everyone. We must not think or act in isolation.

Digital must remain a force for good

Citizens recognise this risk. In the recent citizen focus groups run as part of the Connected Europe initiative, concerns were expressed about the balance they see between data privacy and convenience. It is essential that this citizen perspective is acknowledged as we create people-centric policies and reforms. Digital must remain a force for good and government decisions are key to making that happen.

The benefits of digitalisation could touch every citizen in terms of jobs and business, but more than that greater digitalisation can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve healthcare provision, and foster greater inclusivity.

Perhaps even more strikingly, the economic benefits of digitalisation are significant. Research we recently commissioned from Deloitte offers the clearest indication yet of the scale of the impact the EU and its member states could expect from the right, focused digital investment.

The Deloitte report, Digitalisation: An Opportunity for Europe, reveals that if the EU achieved a score of 90 on the Digital Society and Economy Index (DESI) by the end of the current Multiannual Financial Framework, this could translate into 7.2% higher GDP per capita across the EU and a trillion Euro opportunity to unlock.

It is clear that digitalisation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity

If all 27 member states worked now to achieve a score of 90 on the DESI by 2027, we could be sure that we are building a truly digital society. Europe can build back better, stronger, and more resilient if we all get behind 90 for 27 – as Vodafone has.

This may be our longer-term ambition, but any improvements in digital development can also realise benefits fast. Even a 10% increase in the DESI score is associated with a 0.65% higher GDP per capita. And, crucially for the EU’s ambitions for convergence, the Deloitte analysis revealed that the relative GDP impact of digitalisation is greater for less digitally developed countries.

It is clear that digitalisation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity we should jump on – not least for jobs, business and for the prosperity of Europe. COVID-19 may have hit hard, but as the European Commission has acknowledged, governments, industry and civil society now needs to use this time to put in place measures to transform our economies and societies for the better.

It’s time to step up, together.


This article is part of the Connected Europe initiative, launched by a partnership between Friends of Europe and Vodafone, to foster a successful, green and resilient digital transformation in Europe.

There are three clusters of activity within the Connected Europe initiative:

  • Successful Europe
  • Green Europe
  • Resilient Europe

Presenting the results of the year-long pan-European study, the “Connected Europe: A digital brand for a just transition” report shows how Europe can achieve a successful, green and resilient digital transformation through collaboration and with citizens at the heart of the debate.

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