The Digital Decade, an opportunity of 228,000 million euros for the Spanish economy | Technology
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“We are looking at a decisive decade”, said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on May 30, 2021, at the presentation ceremony in Lisbon of the Digital Compass 2030. “A period of time in which, to be up to the challenges that the future poses, we are going to have to transform our technological skills, our infrastructures and our governance and business models”. The highest authority of the European Union had a few words of remembrance for the great Portuguese explorers who, like Henry the Navigator or Vasco de Gama, set out from the Tagus estuary to enter the Atlantic Ocean and discover a new world: “Like them, we are going to need not only a compass, but a plan for the future and high doses of determination and perseverance”.
Von der Leyen completed in Lisbon his presentation of a document launched three months ago, that Digital Compass or Agenda for the Digital Decade 2021/2030 whose objective is to “train companies and people for a more prosperous and focused future of technological transformation. in the human being”. The basic objectives of the document are that the European Union equips itself in the next ten years with a minimum of 20 million professionals who are experts in information and knowledge technologies, that 80 percent of European citizens acquire basic digital skills, develop secure and sustainable digital infrastructures, transform the business fabric by assimilating technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data or cloud technology and fully digitize public services.
A window of opportunity wide open
In the opinion of Santiago Carbó, professor at the University of Granada and director of Financial Studies at the Funcas Analysis Center, this is an ambitious program that, transferred to the Spanish context, would have a “revolutionary” impact, by “generalizing new professional profiles, reduce costs, optimize processes and create new business perspectives”. For Carbó, Spain joined the industrial transformation processes of the last two centuries with some delay, but now, at the dawn of the so-called Industrial Revolution 4.0, that of information, data, nanotechnology, renewable energy and quantum computing, is facing the historic opportunity to get on “the train of disruptive innovation”.
According to Jordi Comas, strategic consultant and professor at Ramon Llull University, there are reasons for optimism, because Spain has “one of the best technological infrastructures in the world, with fiber optics and radio frequencies spread throughout almost its entire geography”, but it is not can fall into complacency: “There is much to be done, both in the full digital literacy of citizens and in the full digitization of public administrations, large companies and, above all, SMEs, which make up 97% of the business fabric Spanish”.
The stretch that goes from 83,000 to 228,000 million
The strategic consulting firm Public First has just presented a report, commissioned by Amazon Web Services (AWS), the most comprehensive and widely adopted cloud offering in the world, which analyzes the degree of compliance in Spain with the objectives of the Agenda Digital of the European Commission. The first conclusion of the study, entitled Discovering the digital potential of Spainis that, if the horizon proposed by the Agenda becomes a reality, our country would generate 228,000 million euros by 2030.
The objective of the study is to better understand the great opportunity that technological transformation offers Spain and to see how we can work together so that the country achieves its digital ambitions
Miguel Álava, CEO of AWS Iberia
The figure is shocking, since it is equivalent to 21% of the current size of the national economy. Such a qualitative leap in the Spanish economy is within reach, according to those responsible for the study. At the current digitization rate, 83,000 million euros would already be generated. The challenge is to “accelerate the process of digital transformation so that these additional 145,000 million materialize”.
Public First calculates that “55% of the economic impact of achieving the goals of the Digital Decade depends on cloud technology”. To prepare estimates of this economic impact, the consultant carried out a qualitative survey of more than 1,000 consumers and 1,400 companies.
As explained by Miguel Álava, CEO of AWS Iberia, the objective of the study is to “better understand the great opportunity that technological transformation offers Spain and see how we can work together so that the country achieves its digital ambitions”. Álava highlights the optimal digital infrastructure available in the country and the striking advances in the digitization of the administration, “with 82% of key public services available digitally for citizens and 94% for companies”.
The main opportunity in the medium term consists, from his point of view, in “the transformation of companies, given that only 22% currently use cloud services or artificial intelligence”. If Spanish SMEs accelerate their adoption of the cloud by 10%, “5,000 million euros could be added to the Spanish economy”. As far as digital skills are concerned, according to data from the study cited by Álava, it is expected that at the current rate “Spain will reach 64% of citizens with basic skills by 2030”, compared to the 80% that the European Commission considers as optimal aspiration.
Today, Spaniards who have these basic skills make up 57% of the population, which represents a growth of only three percentage points compared to 2017. This progression would be hindering, according to Public First, “the full development of the most digitally advanced companies”, since there is a growing demand for technological profiles that right now is not easy to satisfy. The shortage of suitable professionals is particularly holding back technology-intensive companies: 38% of them said that a lack of digital skills has slowed their growth.
How to close the gender gap
The study highlights that, in order for Spain to gather a sufficient number of experts in information technology and knowledge in the coming years, a more inclusive training model is essential, one that mobilizes and promotes female talent. Today, there is a pronounced gender gap in our country in the so-called STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), an imbalance that is due to social and cultural reasons.
Much remains to be done, both in the full digital literacy of citizens and in the full digitization of public administrations, large companies and, above all, SMEs, which make up 97% of the Spanish business fabric
Jordi Comas, strategic consultant and professor at Ramon Llull University
In Spain, only 11% of women who obtain a higher degree do so in these areas, a figure lower than the 13% presented by the OECD as a whole. The lack of successful female references is not unrelated to this: according to data from the Ministry of Equality, only 7% of the people cited in Spanish textbooks for their contribution to scientific and technological progress are women.
In the words of Adolfo Ramírez Morales, advisor on Transformation and Innovation and author of the essay Go digital or disappear, that is the situation that our country presents today: “We are facing a magnificent opportunity, but we face it with a certain training deficit that should be corrected as soon as possible and with a somewhat irregular degree of digitization both in administrations and in the business fabric”. The technological base exists, but one of the pending issues is “not only to incorporate new tools, but to face the process as a whole for what it is: a cultural and attitude change” that must permeate Spanish society as a whole.
Miguel Álava believes that part of the drive that Spain needs to successfully complete its digital transformation must come from a joint effort between the public and private sectors. He highlights the firm commitment of AWS “with the Spanish economy and with the achievement of its objectives”. As a practical example, it highlights that the next infrastructure region that AWS will open in the coming months in Spain represents “an additional investment of 2,500 million euros in the country in the coming years, which will result in an increase in GDP of 1,800 million and in the creation of 1,300 jobs”.
Álava points out that this infrastructure region “will allow customers to run workloads and store data securely in Spain while serving users with even lower latency, with the guarantee that they will maintain full control over the location of their data. ”. In addition, “AWS customers will have access to another secure AWS infrastructure region in the European Union while respecting the highest security, regulatory and data compliance standards.”
We are facing a magnificent opportunity, but we face it with a certain training deficit that should be corrected as soon as possible and with a somewhat irregular degree of digitization both in the administrations and in the business fabric
Adolfo Ramírez Morales, advisor on Transformation and Innovation and author of the essay ‘Go Digital or Disappear’
The manager also highlights how AWS is promoting the development of digital talent in Spain, “through training programs such as the AWS Academy, AWS Educate and AWS re/Start”. Álava also mentions how AWS is helping Spanish companies accelerate their sustainability goals as well as “increase innovation, save costs and be more competitive” through the adoption of cloud technology.
Full security and data protection guarantees
Finally, another of the great future challenges that arise in the European Union is to make the digital transformation compatible with the maintenance of a legal framework that guarantees security and data protection. In 2016, the European Commission approved a directive in this sense, complemented in 2018 with a Data Protection Supervisory Regulation, which is one of the regulations that offers the most guarantees to citizens at an international level. Spain, in turn, reformed its Organic Law on Data Protection in May 2021 to adapt it both to the European framework and to technological developments.
For Professor Santiago Carbó, this is a crucial issue: “In recent years, the European Union will have to demonstrate the solidity of its commitment to its own values by making advances in digitization compatible with an optimum degree of protection of the interests of the citizen and security as a whole. AWS works closely with businesses and organizations to understand their data protection needs and offers the most comprehensive set of services, tools, and resources to make data protection easy. By using AWS, businesses and organizations manage data privacy controls, control how data is used, determine who gets access, and decide how data is encrypted.
Plus, these capabilities are backed by the most flexible and secure cloud computing environment available today. Miguel Álava highlights that the cloud services offered by AWS guarantee “the highest levels of security, compliance, and data protection” and, in addition, comply with internationally recognized standards, such as the Catalog of Cloud Computing Compliance Controls (C5) and the High Level National Security Scheme (ENS) in Spain.