Category Archives: eCulture

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EU Scoreboard 2013 – Digital Agenda Europe Progress

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The European Commission (EC) Digital Agenda Europe (DAE) – Progress report for 2013EU Flag

Executive Summary

In general, the results across the EU are positive.

  • Internet usage is increasing rapidly, an now stands at 72%, up from 60%. Progress has been even faster among disadvantaged groups.
  • Online shopping is doing well, too, arriving at 47% and 10 points up from the start of the DAE.
  • High-speed broadband is now available to 62% of the population, more than twice the 29% we had in 2010. Still, progress so far has been heavily concentrated in urban areas. Given the limited advancement in rural areas, it is thus too early to judge whether the 2020 broadband targets will be reached.

However, there are a few areas where progress is insufficient.

  • eGovernment take-up by citizens only added four points over four years, is growing more slowly than other online applications and is indeed stagnating in a number of countries. Clearly, neither the potential savings in administration costs nor the potential benefits to citizens are fully exploited.
  • A mere 14% of SMEs use the Internet as a sales channel, only two points up in four years. With such low rates, eCommerce can only be very limited tool for SMEs to grow and create jobs.
  • Public support for R&D in ICT is well below the annual growth needed to achieve a targeted doubling by 2020; budget deficit reductions have taken their toll.
  • Finally, cross-border shopping is growing only slowly.

Next Generation Access

Next Generation Access coverage: Fast broadband technologies capable of providing at least 30 Mbps are available to an average of 64% of the EU population, up from 54% a year ago.

In the UK access is available to over 92% of the population, up from 70% in 2012, well above the EU average and one of the larger leaps of progress of the member states.

Among the Next Generation Access technologies Docsis 3.0 for cable has the highest coverage (42%) followed by VDSL (32%) and FTTP (15%).

GlobeThere are a number of Member states which have already coverage of 90% of homes or more. Most of these have cable and telecom networks competing for customers.

However, rural areas are lagging behind: only 16% of households are covered.

Every European Citizen Digital: consistent progress

Regular Internet use in the EU has increased by 11 percentage points since the launch of the Digital Agenda, from just above 60% to 72%.  Although growth is slowing somewhat, on current trends the target of 75% will be reached by 2015.

The UK is ranked 6thand above the EU average, and achieved and increase of approx. 10% between 2009 and 2013, taking percentage of the population use the Internet at least once a week to approx. 87%

Progress has been largest in countries with a low starting level, especially in Greece, Romania, Ireland, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Croatia. Nevertheless, even Luxemburg has managed to add 10 pp in four years from a very high baseline. Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Luxemburg have now crossed the 90pp threshold, showing that “Every European Digital” is possible in the not-so-distant future.

Conversely, the share of the population which has never used the Internet has declined by 10 points to reach 20%, making the achievement of the target in 2015 possible but not yet assured.

Frequent Internet usage, i.e. connecting at least daily, has risen by 14pp (as opposed to 11pp at least weekly for regular Internet usage), indicating a trend among regular users to more frequent use

Progress has been especially strong for disadvantaged groups, among which regular Internet use has now reached 57%, up from 41% four years ago. On current trends, this target of 60% will be reached even before 2015.

Online shopping is growing, but less so cross-border

The proportion of online shoppers continues to grow, up more than 10 points over the period 2009-2013 to 47% of citizens, advancing in a close parallel with the rate of Internet use.

Online ShoppingThe target of 50% by 2015 is likely to be achieved. While there appears to be no overall relationship between the rate of online shoppers in a country and the rate of increase in this rate over the period observed, the countries with the lowest rates of online shoppers (Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Estonia) have also seen least progress in increasing rates.

Cross-border online shopping has also increased somewhat over this period, up to 12% in 2013 (+4% over 2009), but this pace is too slow to achieve the target of 20% by 2015.  As could be expected, smaller member states have higher rates of cross-border shopping. However, they also exhibit higher growth. In Poland only 9% of online shoppers purchased cross-border, the lowest share of all member states by far.

SMEs are hardly exploiting the Internet for sales

The share of European SMEs selling online is growing at a glacial pace, reaching 14% in 2012, compared to a DAE baseline of 12%. Even in the best performing countries increases are marginal, and only the UK, the Czech Republic and Slovakia register rises of 5% and more. On current trends, not a single member state will even come close to achieving the EU average target of 33% by 2015.

The UK SME’s ranked 8thin of all member states with approximately 18% online sales >=1% of turnover and approx. 42% of online purchases >= 1% of turnover.

The share of SMEs purchasing online is generally much higher, and the EU average of 26% is much closer to the target. This relative success is partly due to a much higher starting point. Also, it is easy to purchase online (a credit card number is sufficient), but difficult to sell (a platform needs to be set up, with payment and delivery mechanism).

eGovernment: use by citizens increases, but too slowly

The use of eGovernment services by citizens has advanced over the last four years, but the most recent data indicates progress which is somewhat slower than the trajectory of the first years. As a result, overall progress of only four percentage points over four years is insufficient to achieve the 2015 target of 50%.

eGovernmentThere has been considerable progress in a number of countries, but very slow change or even decrease in several large member states (Italy, Poland, United Kingdom, Germany) means that the EU average has moved with limited speed.

The variation of eGovernment uptake is much larger than for most other indicators. Even considering Romania as an outlier, the best-to-worst ratio of 4 is twice as high as for Internet use.

The share of citizens returning filled forms among those using eGovernment services is very stable across the EU at 50%, a share which is roughly valid for most countries as well. The UK comes in just under the EU member state average rank 14th

Among the key cross border public services which have been identified in the Connecting Europe Facility Guidelines, electronic ID, electronic signature, electronic delivery and electronic invoicing will be implemented in 2014.

Public R&D for ICT has stopped growing

After increasing for several years, in 2011 public R&D in ICT had managed to increase despite a fall in total public R&D. In 2012, it has followed the overall decrease and went down by 2.5%, a bit faster than the overall decline.

The target of doubling public R&D by 2020 requires an annual growth rate of 5.5%. Already last year actual performance was below the necessary trend line; now the gap is about 20%.


Link to an easy view of the EU DEA Progress Report

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EU Scorebards 2013 – Broadband Markets

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The European Commission (EC) Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) – Broadband Markets Scoreboard report for 2013

Broadband coverage: Basic broadband is available to everyone in the EU, while fixed technologies cover 97% leaving 6 million homes unconnected. Next Generation Access (NGA) covers 62%, up from 54% a year ago. Deployment of 4G mobile increased sharply. Rural coverage remains significantly lower, especially in NGA.

Basic broadband is available to all in the EU, when considering all major technologies (xDSL, Cable, Fibre Refreshto the Premises, WiMax, HSPA, LTE and Satellite). Taking only fixed, fixed wireless (WiMAX) and mobile wireless (HSPA and LTE) into account, the coverage goes down to 99.4%. Fixed and fixed-wireless technologies cover 97.2% of EU homes.

Next Generation Access technologies (VDSL, Cable Docsis 3.0 and FTTP) capable of delivering at least 30Mbps download are available to 62%.

Coverage in rural areas is substantially lower for fixed technologies (89.8%), and especially for NGA (18.1%). 

Coverage of fixed broadband

Technologies continued to increase slightly with a focus on rural areas. In four Member States, all homes are covered by at least one fixed technology.

The UK ranked 4thin the table and achieved 99% coverage in rural areas.

Primary internet access at home is provided mainly by fixed technologies. Among these technologies, xDSL has the largest footprint (93.5%) followed by Cable (42.7%) and WiMAX (19.7%). Fixed coverage is the highest in the Member States with well-developed DSL infrastructures, and is over 90% in all but four Member States.

Overall coverage of fixed broadband increased by 2 percentage points in the last two years, but there was a remarkable progress in rural areas from 79.9% in 2011 to 89.8% in 2013.

Next Generation Access

Graph2Next Generation Access includes VDSL, Cable Docsis 3.0 and FTTP. At the end of 2013, Cable Docsis 3.0 had the largest NGA coverage at 41.2%, followed by VDSL (31.2%) and FTTP (14.5%). Developments until 2012 were dominated by the upgrade of cable networks, while VDSL coverage grew by more than 60% in the last two years. NGA networks are currently very much limited to urban areas: rural coverage is only 18.1%, coming mainly from VDSL.

The UK ranks 9thpresently in the deployment of FTTP, VDSL and Docsis 3.0 cable, total coverage achieved is at 81% with 25% coverage extending into rural areas.

4G mobile broadband availability reached 59%, up from 27% a year ago. 4G has been commercially launched in all but three Member States.

In 2013, deployments of 4G (LTE) speeded up. Nevertheless, 4G coverage is still substantially below that of 3G (HSPA). As of October 2013, close to 60% of Mobile Network Operators in the EU offered 4G services on LTE networks.

LTE deployments in the UK has reached 63 in respect of total coverage by unfortunately none of those coverage has reached rural classified areas as of yet, this places UK ranking in 12th place overall.

There are 30 fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 people in the EU, which corresponds to a take-up of 76%* of homes. The number of subscriptions are still increasing, but the growth rate is low.

The fixed broadband subscriptions market is still on the increase. The growth in penetration stabilised between 1 to 1.3 percentage points per year. The market grew by 5.4 million subscriptions in the last twelve months.

The slowdown is caused by the saturation of the most advanced Member States, as well as a modest migration from fixed to mobile technologies.

Penetration in the EU is higher than in the OECD (27%), and the same as in the US.

Take-up by Member State varies greatly, from 19 to 41 subscriptions per 100 people. Denmark and the Netherlands are among the leaders worldwide, while Romania, Bulgaria and Poland are lagging behind.

Although still very large differences can be observed in take-up across Europe, the coefficient of variation measuring the dispersion among the Member States decreased from 38% in 2008 to 22% in 2014.

The UK ranks 6thin rate of take up with a subscription as a % of the population at 34%, by comparison to the top rated member state Denmark which has achieved 41%.

>30Mbps subscriptions are getting popular, while >100Mbps is still rare in the EU.

An estimated 15% of homes subscribe to fast or ultrafast broadband.

With the increasing availability of NGA networks, fast broadband subscriptions are getting more and more widespread in Europe. Currently there are 6.3 fast broadband subscriptions (offering a headline download speed of minimum 30 Mbps) per 100 people in the EU, up from 2.5 two years ago.

The UK ranked in 11thplace with 9% penetration of subscriptions as a % of population involving fast broadband connections of at least 39Mbps. By comparison the top ranked country is Belgium at 23%.

Take-up of ultrafast (>100Mbps)

This remains marginal at 1.6 subscriptions per 100 people corresponding to 3% of homes.

Ultrafast connections represent only a fraction of fixed broadband subscriptions despite the fact that FTTH/B and Cable Docsis 3.0 networks are capable of delivering such a speed.

Sweden is by far the leader in this product category, with at least 10% penetration of the population using ultrafast broadband.

The UK ranking out of the member states is at 22, with less than 1% ultrafast broadband user population, this is also 9 places lower than the EU average.

The take up of fast broadband (at least 30 Mbps) falls well below the NGA coverage: NGA is available to 62% of homes in Europe, but only an estimated 15% subscribe to fast broadband.

Countries with higher NGA coverage tend to have higher high-speed broadband take-up, but very large differences can be seen across Member States.

wifiOver 70% of subscriptions are xDSL, although xDSL is slightly losing market share. Cable is second with 18% of the market. Fibre to the Home/Building is emerging.

Although DSL is still the most widely used fixed broadband technology, its market share declined from 80% in 2009 to 72% in 2014. The main challenger, cable somewhat increased its share during the same time period, but most of the gains were posted by alternative technologies, especially FTTH/B. Net gains of DSL, cable FTTH/B were in the same magnitude over the last two years.


Incumbent operators are market leaders in almost all Member States, although their market share is decreasing. During the last eight years, new entrant operators always posted higher net gains then the incumbents. In the last six months, new entrants yielded 80% of the total net gain in the market. This, however, could not result in a large change in the overall market share of new entrants because of the low growth rate of the total market.

Market shares are calculated at the national level for the incumbents and new entrants. However, broadband markets are geographically fragmented suggesting that a large number of homes are served by only one provider (most likely by the incumbent operator in this case).

In the UK, the split has been calculated to be incumbents 33% of the market share with new entrants having the remaining 67% suggesting a perhaps somewhat healthy level of competition?

However new entrant subscriptions remain largely dependent on using incumbent infrastructure (69%) as opposed 31% that are utilising their own infrastructure, which placing the UK ranking 4th from bottom of the table in comparison to other member states, where greater proportions of new entrants have their own infrastructure.


Low speed fixed broadband subscriptions are getting marginal: only 3% of all subscriptions have lower than 2 Mbps advertised download speed as opposed to 36% six years ago. At least 10Mbps applies to two thirds of subscriptions, up from 9% in 2008.

CogsFast and ultrafast broadband subscriptions grew by 44% in twelve months. Despite the growth of fast and ultrafast subscriptions, they are still rare in the EU. In January 2014, only slightly more than one in five subscriptions were at least 30 Mbps and only 5.3% at least 100Mbps.

Speeds of broadband products are advertised as “up to a certain Mbit/s”, but there are significant differences between the advertised speed and the actual speed that consumers receive. In the EU, the actual download speed is 76% of the advertised speed. DSL delivers only 63.8% of the advertised headline download speed, compared to 89.5% for cable and 82.7% for FTTx.

As for the xDSL being the most widely used technology in Europe, there are large differences across Member States: 90% of the advertised download speed is attained in Poland, but only 45% in France and 50% in the UK and Ireland.

The UK achieves on average better speeds overall that a good number of other member states, with 17% achieving speeds between 2Mbps and 10Mbps and a decent 83% benefiting from speeds above 10Mbps.

Mobile Broadband

There are 62 active mobile broadband SIM cards per 100 people in the EU, up from 26 three years ago. The growth in subscriptions somewhat slowed down in the last twelve months.

Mobile broadband represents the fastest growing segment of the broadband market, although the growth somewhat slowed down in the last twelve months in terms of active subscriptions. Take-up increased by 15% in 2013 compared to 18% in 2012. 

iPadIn the Nordic countries, there are already more than 100 subscriptions per 100 people, while in Hungary, Greece and Portugal the take-up rate is still below 40%. Most of the mobile broadband subscriptions are used on smartphones rather than on tablets or notebooks.

Mobile broadband is mainly used a complementary connection rather than a substitute to fixed broadband.

The correlation between fixed and mobile broadband take-up remains rather weak in the EU. More than 30% of homes with internet access use mobile broadband, up from 16% in 2010. However, in most of the cases, mobile broadband does not substitute a fixed connection: only 8% of homes with internet access rely purely on mobile technology.

Broadband and Bundle Prices

Prices of high speed broadband access across the EU Member States tend to decrease over time but remain dispersed across Member States.

Broadband access prices remain dispersed across Europe: the median prices (calculated on Purchasing Power Parity) vary between €22 and €102 for a standalone offer with a download speed between 30 and 100 Mbps.

The UK retail prices (EUR PPP) on standalone offers came in under the EU average for 12-30Mbps at €28.63 by comparison tom the average at €36.65 and over the average for 20-100Mbps at €40.29 against the average of €33.99.

Prices of triple play bundles including broadband access, fixed telephony and television has come down considerably since 2009.

The median prices of triple play bundles including broadband access (with a download speed between 30 and 100 Mbps), fixed telephony and television vary between €38 and €90 in the EU.

The UK retail price (EUR PPP) for bundles including broadband, fixed telephony and television average at €62 in line with the overall EU average.

Broadband take-up tends to be lower in countries where the cost of broadband access accounts for a higher share of income.

The correlation between fixed broadband take-up and the relative price of broadband access is negative (-66%), so broadband take-up tends to be lower in countries where the cost of broadband access represents a higher share of the income.

26% of those households without internet access considers the broadband access prices a barrier to take-up, while for 30% the required equipment is not affordable.

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EU Scoreboard 2013 – eGovernment

The European Commission (EC) Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) – eGoverment Scoreboard reports for 2013

eGovernment BuildingIn 2013 eGovernment services have been used by 41% of the EU28 population, down from 44% in 2012 and almost at the same level as in 2011. This set against a target of 50% of the population to be using eGovernment by 2015.

Currently only 9 out of 28 countries are above the 2015 target and only 7 countries have seen usage increasing in 2013.

The UK is ranked 14that a little over 40% just under the EU average in 13th place. Unfortunately the UK was one of the 7 countries that experienced a decrease in the use of eGovernment between 2012 and 2013.

eGovernment Use

Internet-savvy citizens often use the Internet to contact public administrations, but less so to conclude more complex interactions.

Almost three quarters (73.3%) of Internet users (in the last 12 months) who needed to contact a public authority (or to use a public service) did so online in 2013.

A quarter of these used exclusively the Internet, while the others used also other channels of interaction. 26.7% of the internet users contacted their public administrations without using the Internet at all. The preferred offline channels of interaction were personal visits (54%), telephone (50%), email (25%) and other methods (e.g. SMS, post, 20%).

However, when more advanced interaction is required, Internet users are less likely to carry this out online. In 2013, among Internet users who needed to submit official forms to public authorities, only 52% did so via Internet, down from 53% in the previous year


Users of eGovernment services are in general satisfied, while the main reason for non-use is a lack of trust.

chart-pieOnce citizens start to use online public services, they generally find the experience highly satisfying (75%), with only a minority feeling very disappointed (8%). The most appreciated feature is the usefulness of information (87% mainly satisfied), followed by the ease of finding information (84%), the ease of using online services (79%) and the transparency/follow-up (75%).

Lack of trust seems to be the main source of non-use. It comes in several forms:

  • a preference for personal contact (41%),
  •  higher trust for paper submissions (30%),
  •   concern about personal data (19%),
  •  and a lack of immediate feedback (16%).

Other main factors of non-use are a lack of skills and an incomplete digitalization of government services.

The measurement of eGovernment supply, some methodological notesItem Checked

The supply side of eGovernment is measured through a user journey approach. This is undertaken by researchers acting as mystery shoppers, that is, by posing as ordinary users of eGovernment services. The mystery shoppers simulate an event in the life of the citizen/entrepreneur requiring administrative action from the government (e.g. a marriage) and then go through public authorities websites in order to fulfil the related administrative requirements through the online channel when possible.

Seven of these life events are analysed in the course of two years (the first complete measurement is from 2012-2013) in different government domains:

  • losing/finding a job
  • enrolling to university
  • moving
  • starting a small claim procedure
  • buying/owning a car
  • starting a business
  • regular business operations

Different aspects of service provision are examined in this new methodology, but the two examined here are the following: User-centric eGovernment and Transparent eGovernment.

The User-Centric eGovernment indicator measures the availability of eGovernment services, their connectedness and their user-friendliness.

The Transparent eGovernment indicator measures the online transparency of governments on the different aspects of online service delivery, treatment of citizens’ personal data and activities of the public administrations.

Both indicators range from 0 (complete absence of required features) to 100 (all features included).

The source for the eGovernment supply data is the eGovernment Benchmark Report (see

Link to an easy view of the EU eGovernment Report

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EU Scoreboard 2013 – Internet Use

The European Commission (EC) Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) – Internet Use Scoreboard reports for 2013.

There are some really interesting profiles developing not least in respect of the maturing App market place and transitioning that appears to be occurring between Apple and the Android platforms.


The diversification index* measuring the mean number of online activities undertaken by internet users has grown continuously of the past few years, from 5.1 in 2009 to 6.2 in 2013
This showing that as people become more experienced and confident online, they not only increase their frequency of use but also the diversity of the activities they perform.

This process takes time, and while leading countries such as Denmark and Sweden are about 4 years ahead of the EU average, internet users in lagging countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Poland are 4 years behind the average.

The UK comes in a respectable rank of 6th which is above the EU average ranked itself in 9th place.

Online shopping is growing, but less so cross-border.

Online ShoppingThe proportion of online shoppers continues to grow, up more than 10 percentage points over the period 2009-2013 to 47% of citizens, advancing in a close parallel with the rate of internet use. As such the Digital Agenda target of 50% by 2015 is likely to be achieved.

Cross-border online shopping has also increased somewhat over this period, up to 12% in 2013 (+4 percentage point over 2009), but this pace is too slow to achieve the target of 20% by 2015.

The UK is second in the table behind Germany and one of only 9 member states that have succeeded in exceeding the EU target. In the UK over 75% of Internet users shop online.

Europeans increasingly download Apps.

App Economy continues solid growth both in Europe and worldwide.

In 2013, total App downloads from all platforms reached 90bn worldwide and 20bn in Europe. The number of downloads grew a staggering 80% worldwide in 2013. Europe showed a 68% growth, and the USA grew at a rate of 36%.

However, growth is slowing and forecasts for 2014 point to an increase of 44% in downloads worldwide, 36% in Europe and 17% in the USA.

SlidersIn 2013, App revenues (downloads and In- App purchases) reached EUR 12bn worldwide and EUR 2.75bn in Europe. Worldwide App revenue has roughly doubled in 2013 (97% growth). In Europe it grew 59% and 43% in the USA. Revenue growth is slowing down and in 2014 it is expected to grow 32% worldwide, 31% in Europe and 19% in the USA.

China’s App economy “woke up” only recently. From nearly no downloads until 2010, China has surpassed both Europe and the USA in 2013 with a total of 23bn downloads and a growth rate of 135% for that year. However, revenues have not yet caught up. While China accounted for 26% of worldwide App downloads in 2013, it accounted for a mere 8% of revenue.

Apple App Store and Google Play are the main App platforms.

  • Google Play becomes leader in App downloads.
  • Apple App Store remains ahead in total revenues.

Google Play and the Apple App store are the two main platforms for App distribution worldwide. In 2013 they accounted together for three quarters of worldwide App downloads and about 90% of revenue from App purchases (App downloads plus In-App purchases).

Theater MasksConcerning App downloads, Google Play is in the lead with 38bn downloads in 2013 versus 28bn for the Apple App Store. In terms of revenue, Apple’s App Store generated over EUR 7bn in 2013, almost the double of the EUR 3.8bn generated by Google Play.

Both platforms are in rapid expansion, whether measured in terms of App downloads or in revenues therefrom. The Apple App Store grew 45% in terms of downloads and 75% in terms of revenues in 2013. Google Play nearly doubled in number of downloads and saw a near 4-fold increase in revenue.

In-App Purchases have become the preferred App business model.

Games generate more revenue than all other Application types together.

Looking at the breakdown of revenue from the Apple App Store in Europe reveals preferred business models and types of content.

In-App purchases are the preferred App business model, over Pay per Download. In-App purchases account for close to 90% of App Store revenues in Europe in 2013. This and increase from less than 5% in 2008.

The revenue from In-App purchases was over EUR 1.4bn in Europe, versus less than EUR 200m from App paid downloads.

Games generate the largest share of App revenues, more so than all other Applications together. Games account for over 70% of App Store revenues in Europe in 2013. The revenue from Games reached about EUR1.2bn in Europe, whereas other Applications generated only over EUR 400m.

Advertising revenues are in slow recovery after the financial crisis.

Online + Mobile advertising are growing much faster than the advertising sector as a whole.

Online advertising is overtaking traditionally dominant segments in terms of revenue share.

After the severe dip due to the financial crisis and the ensuing period of near stagnation, advertising revenues have slowly started to recover. Total advertising revenues** reached EUR 75.593bn in 2013, which still represents only 87% of the 2007 pre-crisis peak value.

moneyRevenue for the whole advertising industry returned to positive growth of 1% in 2013 (+EUR 0.5bn) largely due to the Online + Mobile segments. In 2013, revenue from traditional segments decreased 5% (-EUR 2.9bn), while the Online + Mobile segments grew 18% (+EUR 3.4bn).

Online + Mobile advertising revenue shares have grown steadily since 2005. At EUR 23bn in 2013, they accounted for over 30% of total advertising revenue. By contrast, the revenue shares of the Print and TV segments have been declining, and are about to be overtaken by the online segment.

Germany, the UK and France account for over 60% of advertising revenue in the EU. The UK accounts for the largest share of online revenues.

The largest European countries also generate the most advertising revenues: Germany (23.5%), the UK (22.9%) and France (14%). The share of online revenue in total advertising revenue varies significantly across countries. The UK accounts for the largest share of online revenues (45%), followed by Denmark (39%) and the Netherlands (34.5%).

Both the UK and Germany showed growth in total advertising revenues in 2013 (UK: 9.5%, DE: 4.3%), as well as in the online segment (UK: 24%, DE: 33%). France showed some growth in the online segment (6%), but a decline in total revenues (- 1.2%). Due to the revenue from the Online segment, the UK is expected to overtake Germany as the biggest advertising revenue generator in 2014, with a forecast EUR 18.5bn in total revenue.

eCulture Conclusion for the UK

The UK continues to make solid progress in the diversification and use of internet services amongst its existing use population.

The UK’s position as the leader in securing online revenues from advertising is a marked success to be maintained going forward.

Article Links

Perhaps an area for investment focus is development of revenues from Apps and development of a strong app development community here in the UK. Critically to this however will be the need to address the UK ICT skills gap that is forecasted form the UK flagged in a previous blog article on the EU Digital Inclusions and Skills Scoreboard.

Link to an easy view of the EU Internet Use Report


*The Diversification Index is calculated for individuals that used the Internet in the previous 3 months, and is computed as the number of activities performed out of the following 12 selected activities:

Sending/receiving e-mails  – browsing for information about goods and services – reading online newspapers/news  – looking for information on travel/accommodation services – posting messages to social media  -interacting with public authorities – internet banking – telephoning or video calls – selling goods or services – purchasing content (films, music, software) – purchasing goods – purchasing services

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EU Scoreboard 2013 – Digital Inclusion and Skills

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The European Commission (EC) Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) – Digital Inclusion and Skills Scoreboard reports for 2013 have flagged some interesting concerns with potential to quite significantly impact broader EU digital aspirations.

And critically, the UK is singled out as a contender likely to be adversely affected alongside Germany and Italy.

eCulture, summarises UK progress on this scoreboard to date and explores the potential impact a skills gap could have.

Access to the full version of the EC report published is available at the end of this article.

Internet User and Usage Growth

The EC reports that the number of internet users in the population continues to increase, with 72% of the EU population reporting that they used the internet at least weekly in 2013.

computerMore than half of the EU citizens (62%) reporting using the Internet daily in 2013. Use by disadvantaged people also continues to rise; with 57% reporting using the internet at least weekly in 2013. In both cases the rate represents a continuance of the ongoing upward trend since 2009.

Across Europe, rates of weekly internet use remain dispersed and the rankings of countries with the highest and lowest rates have changed very little over time.

In the UK, 80% of Internet users (including disadvantaged users) access the Internet at least weekly, a fairly respectable 8th place, ahead of Belgium, Germany, Austria, Estonia and France perhaps surprisingly in 14th place. The EU28 average ranks in at 16.

The highest rates of weekly internet use continue to be found in the Nordic countries, where rates are around 90% or more, with Iceland top of the league, followed by Norway, Luxemberg, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland.

At the other end of the scale, countries with the lowest rates of weekly internet use (Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Turkey) is limited to around half of their respective populations.

Interestingly the report flags that convergence is taking place; with, generally speaking, larger annual increases in rates of weekly use of the internet in counties with the most catching up to do.

EC Digital Excluded

The report highlights that of those identified to be digitally excluded the biggest barriers were:

Not having a need for access (49%)

Lack of skills and ability (37%)

And cost, with equipment (30%) and access (26%)

Interestingly all of the three reasons have become increasingly significant over time, it is cost issues that have gained substantially in significance amongst households with children and those on low incomes.

BanThe EU target set in 2009 was for halve the digitally excluded from 30% to 15% by 2015. With the ratio down to 20% in 2013 the report suggests EU members are on schedule to achieve the target.

However, the margin of improvement between 2012 and 2013 was just 2%, so this will have to be slightly improved upon going forward.

The biggest improvements were made in Croatia, Greece, Romania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Estonia and Italy, but it was noted that number of countries (Bulgaria, Portugal, Poland and Malta) with above average rates of non-users had struggled to make improvement since 2012.

Digital Inclusion and Skills Mix

The EC report adopts the newly constructed Digital Skills Indicator*, based on the Digital Competence Framework** (developed by DG EAC and IPTS on-going).

Across the EC the variation of skills ranges from 6% in Sweden with no digital skills to 50% in Romania. In ten countries (Malta, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Italy, Hellenic Republic, Bulgaria and Romania) 30% or more of the population have no digital skills.

In four countries (Italy, Hellenic Republic, Bulgaria and Romania) rates are 40% or more. In Italy, with its large population, this equates to almost 18 million people without digital skills. In the worst cases Bulgaria (81%) and Romania (85%) most of the population does not have the digital skills they need.

Considering that to function effectively in the digital society one needs more than low level skills, almost half the EU population (47%) can be considered as insufficiently digitally skilled (having either low or no digital skills).***

The EU assessment of the UK Digital Skills rankings identifies approx.

11% of the population has no skill

31% low skills

27% have basic skills

31% are considered “Above Basic”

That means according to the EC standard described here, approx. 42% of the UK population has insufficient skills to function effectively in a digital society.

Disadvantaged People

Disadvantaged people are defined as individuals belonging to at least one of the following three groups: aged 55-74, low educated or unemployed, retired or inactive.

In the EU28 38% of disadvantaged people have no digital skills at all.

In the UK approx. 24% of the population falling into the disadvantaged class have no skills, with a further 38% identified to have low skills, making if 62% of the disadvantaged population having insufficient skills to function effectively in a digital society.

Digital Skills Amongst The Workforce

Rates of digital skills for this category fare much better as expected, with rates on average higher than for the average population rates in the EU review earlier.

In the UK the rates are approx. 5% with no skills and an additional 30% with low skills, thus 35% with insufficient skills to star-offfunction in a digital society.

In respect of information communication and technology specialist employment across the EU on average growth in the specialist skilled population has grown 4% a year since 2000.

The UK increased its share of ICT specialist employment by 4.2% to position itself 3rd in the leaders group, behind Sweden 4.8%, Finland 4.7%.

Despite this growth since 2000 the report flags the employment potential of ICT remains underexploited, with evidence showing a growing gap emerging between supply and demand.

The report goes on the highlight that the largest ICT professional skills gap to be found in Germany, with forecasts suggesting that over the period up to 2020 the ICT professional skills gap will be severely aggravated in the UK and Italy in particular. This due insufficient production of ICT graduates to keep up with strong demand.

eCulture Conclusions for UK

Of key concern will be the fact that the UK has an emerging problem with the production of ICT skilled graduates, for which a call out for assistance from the private sector for help on resolving this issue.

This approach is shared across the EU, under a proposal for the private sector to support the formation of a “Grand Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs”.

The skills gap issue has the potential to increase in severity as the government pushes ahead with development of eGovernment, success of which is highly dependent on availability of ICT skills.

As eGovernment is especially concerned with the digitally excluded, the being for the most part primary users of government managed services such as health, social care and benefits, set to be transitioned to digital engagement models.

The digitally excluded will need assistance to become engaged, likely adding to the increase in demand for ICT skilled specialists, especially in education and training in particular.

alertWith austerity still very much a focus in the private sector as well as the public sector, there has to be a concern that if not sufficient support and assistance is secure to address the growing ICT skills gap, a much broader and negative impact is going to be felt across other programmes of work designed to increased our capabilities to contribute and compete in an eCulture orientated world.

Link to easy view of the EU Digital Inclusion and Skills report


* Measuring Digital Skills across the EU: EU wide indicators of Digital Competence

** Ferrari, A. (2013), DIGCOMP: A Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe, JRC Scientific and Policy Reports.

*** To be classified as “Low Skilled” an individual has to have carried out activities from only one of the four Digital Competence domains included in the index (information, communication, content-creation and problem-solving). To have “Basic Skills”, an individual has to have basic in at least one domain. To be classified “Above Basic” the individual has to score above basic in each of the four domains.

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Patient Record Access – A Perspective 2 Years On

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peopleIn May 2012 I wrote an article (Patient access to GP Records by 2015) and offered some immediate thoughts on who would be the primary beneficiaries of this Department of Health mandate, with some thought on identifying the primary element of the patient population, access to medical information should be targeted at.

A little over two years on and with the benefit of additional insight from consultancy engagements with some very innovative and forward thinking solution providers, there remains much to be resolved if the target is to be met, especially with anything like a solution that delivers on the range of benefits that should be secured.

Current Focus Remains Narrow

Technology choice for electronic patient records (EPR’s) and patient record access is wide and varied, from traditional operational patient administration system providers, with these largely focusing on improving visibility and accessibility of clinical patient information operationally, to the more expensive and challenging to implement solutions that can integrate patient data from a wide range of operational clinical systems, from independent solution providers.

For the most parts investment in EPR technologies are currently health sector and organisationally specific, with current early phases of delivery focusing on clinical operational needs (data quality) and business performance improvement (QIPP), largely it is felt because these tend to be business case qualifications (QIPP deliverables) that are easier to define, over alternatives concerning wider benefits of patient engagement.

The technology to enable patient record access exists, and certainly with the right approach and focus, the target for enabling citizen access to at least key parts of their record remains achievable. There are however, some fundamental considerations to be addressed to move thinking beyond current operational focus, and onto the service transformation potential citizen engagement would deliver.

Patient (Citizen) Centricity

Citizen CentricA citizen view servicing “meaningful use”, requires the assimilation from multiple organisations, e.g. primary care, community care, social care, acute care and mental health, as well as systems, such as appointment management solutions, prescribing management systems, patient management systems and healthcare contact systems etc., especially when giving due consideration to the touch points across health and social care for patients for example with long-term chronic conditions.

This means that the maximum benefit to be secured by access to medical information can only realistically be achieved by a strong commissioning lead, and one that is capable of resolving the conflicting interests and competing requirements individual information host organisations will bring to the table.

It remains the case that the greatest benefit to be secured from improving patient engagement through provision of better information will be derived from engaging with those that are suffering from one or more long-term chronic condition, with which engagement succeeds in enabling patients and their carers to better manage the condition(s), to the point of reducing the numbers of calls and escalations occurring that require direct engagement of health professionals and any associated service provision.

Data Ownership Becomes a Concern

However, it remains the case that for this engagement to be most useful, the solution should provide the citizen (owner) with a mechanism by which they can consent access to the information, to members of their personal care circle (friends and family), citizens should be able to refine access according to need, i.e. allow some carers to see more of the record that others.

Inclusiveness, accessibility and security subsequently still also remain primary concerns, given the largest proportion of patients that stand to gain from engagement supported with access to health and social care information are those with long-term chronic conditions, a large proportion of which presently have limited engagement with technology.

Data Protection

Along with the issue of ownership, a further information governance concern arises from delivery of a single unified patient record, built from the assimilation of information from a multitude of operational systems managed by different organisations (data controllers), in that data moved into a new host, creates new data controller obligations and information governance responsibilities that can be difficult to align operationally.

AlertCritically new patient identifiable systems are necessary, such as a “Master Patient Index” for example, that enable different patient coding systems and identification methods to be unified, thus ensuring that data assimilated and presented is relevant to the patient concerned.

Administering a master patient index sitting in between a multiplicity of systems in different organisations would need to involve resources across all organisations, and in the process, would likely lead to an increase the range of access to patient identifiable information above and beyond current organisational focused remits.

Looking ahead, the range of benefits for all concerned increase when integration with social care information is incorporated but as before, concerns for data protection and information governance also increase.

Key to Resolving Ownership and Data Protection

DirectoryEstablishing a maintainable Master Patient Index (Citizen Directory Service) within a safe secure framework capable of accommodating the administration and multiple access requirements with the ability for the citizen to understand and appreciate the range of identifiers associated to them, with an ability to self-maintain appropriate identification attributes would provide for a solid engagement foundation from which service and bi-directional data flows could be managed.

Additional benefits to be derived from a self-maintained citizen directory include:

  • A range of health and social care data management needs that are outside of the current health and social care systems, these include:
  • Details on their personal care circle, family and friends supporting them and what level of care they provide, mentors, and additional support they may have contracted or secured privately from third sector providers and charities, support groups etc.;
  • Extending data flows for care plans, end of life plans, life stories, coping strategies, self-prescribing / medicating information;
  • Scheduling of personal health and wellbeing activities such as keeping fit activities and appointments schedules with third sector providers etc.;
  • Ability to link data associations from assisted living devices, tele-health and tele-care devices and solutions to that again may be acquired by patients by private purchases or through personal engagement with third party service providers.

These representing just some of the additional information that could be sourced directly from the citizen and / or their personal care circle that by virtue of association being known in the “citizen directory service” potentially provided back to health and social care providers to further help inform and shape the care delivery process.

Importantly, at this level the citizen (or person assigned power of attorney) is the data controller and owner of their information, thus resolving a significant data protection cost and engagement challenge for health and social care.

So What’s Likely in 2015?

The country is certainly more than one year away from securing the very significant efficiency, effectiveness and quality service improvements that could be achieved from patient access to medical information.

Perhaps not surprising given that since the announcement on patient access to medical records was made, there has been (and needed to be) a significant focus on the re-organisation of health care, that at best, patients will only be provided in 2015, with fairly rudimentary (read only) level of access to information and likely, primarily from just one source, the GP.

There is consequently the potential for a real and very significant problem emerging ironically from the re-organisation, which materialises from the devolution of control and responsibility for delivery down to a local level.

QueryThis because if it is agreed that a unified master patient index (citizen directory service) is a key foundation to progressing onto and integrated citizen centrically focused and bidirectional process of engagement, then this ought to be implemented to a national standard, and perhaps once?

Concluding Thoughts

With current technology supporting mobility for the population and rapidly emerging to support assisted living, tele-health and tele-care, the very process of caring and engaging in a patients care pathway / process is set to change dramatically.

Care closer to home is set to become a reality, technologies are emerging that can enable patient carers to become more engaged in the ongoing care process and management of conditions, along with technologies that also have the ability to increase levels of confidence for patients to live more independently.

Subsequently care, supported by the technology innovations emerging today, has the potential to become a true joint venture that engages personal care circles of family members, friends and personally engaged third sector charities or private sector providers of services and solutions with public funded health and social care service provision.

It is this potential that delivers the much need reform of the current health and social care model, certainly at a scale with potential to exceed achievement of £20bn of efficiency gains and savings.

Whilst there are benefits to initiatives having a local focus, so that variation in needs across communities can be accommodated there are some core elements that if not delivered as a national hub, must at least be supported by appropriate nationally agreed standards, addressing requirements such as interoperability, data / care pathway workflows to support engagement functioning across localities, however these are defined.

With that said, the patient / citizen user experience is another area for concern. With the potential benefits to be secure from engagement being undermined by patients / citizens experiences being widely different across the country, as features and capabilities vary as a result of variations in approaches.

But see, now this represents a case for some sort of nationally coordinated approach, and we’ve been there with the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), and if you believe everything you read that was a total failure, with nothing of any real benefit delivered.

But then maybe, the NHS SPINE, Summary Care Record and need for unifying the interface to offer citizens consistency in the engagement experience, if only there was an appetite to even consider the potential use of some of the NPfIT investments that did deliver?

What do you think?

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We should be thanking social networking providers?

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Staff and organisation culture has often been identified to be an inhibiting factor of efforts to develop public sector information governance capability ans standards.

Some suggest cultural issues stem from the fact that the majority of the workforce has had to adapt and learn to use computers and information systems, largely on evolved basis of trial and error?

Training historically has focused on addressing the “hands on” use of the technology only, it is only recently that a greater focus has given to developing a greater social understanding of the implications i.e. governance and privacy concerns.

Social Networking

Looking ahead the new social networking generation of school leavers coming into the workplace, is likely to have a profound and positive effect on culture, in regard to staff being more acutely aware of the social implications of technology, and thus the value of supporting development of information governance capability.

Equally this same generation of new service users, will likely challenge organisations like no other before it, to demonstrate that their data and privacy is being managed properly. We should expect an increase in Data Protection Act “subject access requests”, as this generation matures into concerning adults!

Education and Maturity

For this we have to thank those that have supported making investment to secure mainstream use of technology in our education system, leading to the subsequent production of this computer literate element of society.

But I think we should reserve our greatest thanks for the social networking sites that have arguably made the greatest contribution towards the development of concerns and awareness of privacy issues, taking this generation beyond computer literate, to perhaps becoming technology savvy.

However, should we not also be concerned that development of societies awareness and appreciation of information governance and privacy still appears to be on a trial and error basis?

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The NHS and Microsoft, is it time to part company?

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Since the NHS announcement of the cancellation of the NHS and Microsoft Enterprise Wide Licensing Agreement, on news forums such as eHealth Insider many in passing comment have been heralding this to be an opportunity for a change, suggesting it would be good for the NHS to break from the dominance of Microsoft as the primary technology provider.

Whilst the ending of the NHS and Microsoft agreement has created the opportunity to take stock, there are many strategic aspects not presently raised in discussions that should be considered before any organisations takes the plunge for change.

Of course nobody can fail to acknowledge that one of the key factors driving the agenda are the challenging targets for cost and efficiency savings to be made across the service, and arguably a primary reason behind the decision to cancel the agreement. Just as important however, patients, staff and the taxpayer will not be expecting responsible ministers and health service managers to be making short term gains, without ensuring these are not detrimental to the service in the medium to long term.

Microsoft is the dominant provider of software technology into the NHS, in fact this has been the case for more than 10 years, since organisations made the switch from technologies, for example Novell, Lotus, WordPerfect, that were then the predominant technology providers.

Yes, the NHS has undergone fairly significant technology change before. But it was not operating under the financial challenges faced by the NHS today. The migration from these technologies actually happened slowly over an almost 10 year time frame and critically, it also affected a much smaller number of end users than we are dealing with today.

Worth taking a step back for moment

One of the major factors that drove the change at that time was the Windows operating system with the easier use Windows interface, which delivered a radically different and far simpler way of working for both systems administrators and user alike, providing the means to more rapidly introduce computer solutions to new sections of the workforce at much less cost than could have been with the previous DOS based application environments.

A key factor in Microsoft’s early success was the fact that Windows and the early applications they released shipped with “Application Programming Interfaces” (Windows API) and “open systems architecture” (OSA) standards (noting that the OSA aspect did not necessarily employing then accepted industry standards defined by Open Systems Interconnect – OSI).

With the Windows API and OSA interfaces and the fact that Microsoft delivered then, and has continued to release, ever increasingly capable programming languages enabling simple utilisation of these technology layers, with an ability to incorporate functions and features from their “off-the-shelf” desktop and BackOffice technologies, Microsoft had delivered a rich and dynamic computing capability like no other.

A second and equally significant key to Microsoft’s success was the adoption of the Microsoft open standards and programming languages by the developer community worldwide. This coupled with the very successful partnering scheme which helped to established Microsoft’s becoming not only the most widely used and widely developed, but also the most widely supported technology, with thousands of technology service providers basing their business on the delivery and development of Windows based solutions.

The significance of what Microsoft has had a large hand in delivering, from a software engineering and development perspective cannot be understated. The ability to blend “commercial off-the-shelf” (COTS) technologies with new code to deliver new or custom applications has revolutionised software engineering. Enabling new “Agile” software engineering methodologies to come into existence which when applied correctly with COTS, delivers functionally rich applications at considerably less cost, time and most importantly risk than was achieved in the period predating Microsoft.

A IM&T Manager in a trust being asked to consider what investments in technology would deliver the most significant increases in efficiency savings over the next three years, could suggest:

Office automation and workflow, represents a means to deliver efficiencies and savings across a wide range of workforce activities. Importantly it is also a mechanism for delivering improvements in information quality to address gaps highlighted in the National Quality Board report recently published, which has identified 40% of health programme budget areas, representing £20bn of annual expenditure, is without any nationally collected quality information.

To deliver office automation and workflow a number of components are required:

– A messaging service to pass around workflow messages
– A business rules engine to manage events and actions
– A database engine to store metadata and structured data items
– Digital signature solution
– Forms tools, browser tools etc.

In considering the cost efficiency options for developing, implementing and supporting the office automation and workflow solutions they should be looking to utilise as much of our existing investment in technology as possible.

In acknowledging that not all of the components would already be available in my organisations, they should be looking to select technologies that had the best fit with those already deployed and with which my staff had been trained to use or are accustomed to.

In acknowledging that the trust would not have all the required skills readily available in house, then the choice of technologies would be influenced by selecting those that are supported the most in terms of third parties that could be called upon to help.

Another technical consideration, would be the ability to use as much commercial off the shelf software as possible, to limit the amount of software development (risk) to the minimum possible.

Top of the list for this would be Microsoft, with technologies addressing every aspect of the outline requirements listed above, with application programming interfaces to support development of any bespoke requirements, hundreds of technology partner specialist covering every aspect of the technologies above, thousands of developers to help at very competitive rates, and an unprecedented level of online resources available also.

Microsoft would clearly represents the lowest risk option for the iniative, given the majority of trusts already have:

MS Exchange Server (and Outlook Client), MS SQL Server for metadata storage, MS SharePoint for my document management and means through which presentation of workflow interfaces can be achieved, MS Office and Internet Explorer for my clients requirements that can be customised and tailored to deliver the most appropriate interface.

Trusts have digital signature capable technology in the NHS Smartcard, the only remaining missing link is Microsoft BizTalk to provide the business rules engine for the workflows.

In addition, there are also an extensive range of third-party Microsoft compatible third party components and bespoke solutions that address parts of the requirements that can be considered for purchase, to potentially further reduce production time and risk.

Alternative technology options for consideration

The alternative options to Microsoft at the same level of support and limitations of risk are not so easy to define, especially in terms of making a technology switch, Open Source being the option most widely promoted. Can Open Source truly provide the same complete range of “off-the-shelf” components with the integrated and standard programmatic interfaces and data integration / sharing capabilities comparable with that of Microsoft?

Even if the answer to this is yes, then the next consideration is the need for third party resources to help in the development, noting that the level of external support would initially be greater to address the unfamiliarity internally with the new technologies. How readily available are these, can they be obtained without any premium on the basis that they are less readily available?

But even before a trust could begin to consider the implementation of workflow development initiatives and commencement of securing efficiency savings and productivity gains, there would be the need for a migration project and switch of the organisation from the current set of technologies to the new, no small task in itself.


Very little exploration of the practicalities of making a technological switch of this significance is presented in the commentary I have seen to date, the focus very much on the assumption that moving to Open Source will reduces costs, and next to nothing has been offered in regards to the more strategic implications.

Open Source licences are free, but migration is not. There would be a requirement for investment to evaluate the implications of the technology switch (taking into account clinical applications exploiting the programmatic integration capabilities of Microsoft technologies), and then the investment in the projects to manage the transition.

Best estimate is that it would take a trust a minimum of six months to fully explore the implications and arrive at a plan for accomplishing the switch over, with another 6 months to accomplish the task fully.

An IM&T Manager instead could be looking to implement programme of work delivering office automation and workflow on an “agile” incremental basis, taking the least risk approach to produce the maximum return on investment at each stage.

In the same time frame as it would take to evaluate and plan a migration to alternative technologies, the trust could be delivered a range of cash releasing efficiency savings, with a plan and progress towards meeting requirements for Information on the Quality of Service, supporting the NHS strategic aim for Equity and Excellent: Liberating the NHS.

It would not take much to identify benefits and returns on investment that would easily justify the cost of procuring and maintaining investment in Microsoft licences.

Trust technology investments going forward need to align with the revised NHS national strategy of “connect all” rather than “replace all”. The NHS has tried revolution with only limited success, it now only has the resources for evolution.



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