What does the 2020 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) report tell us about digital development in rural areas? Not enough

On the 12 June the Commission released the results of the 2020 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), which monitors Europe’s overall digital performance and tracks the progress of EU countries concerning their digital competitiveness. This year’s DESI shows that there has been progress in all Member States and all key areas measured by index. It further provides very rich information about many indicators related to connectivity, human capital, use of internet services and others relevant areas.

However, where is this progress taking place in Europe? What is the state of play in rural areas?

This report fails to give information on all indicators disaggregated between rural and urban areas. Therefore, it is not possible to say whether the progress made in digital development is closing the digital gap between urban and rural territories or the rather exacerbating this inequality even more hampering the future development of these areas.   

Information on rural areas is only provided about the deployment of infrastructure in rural areas, namely i) Very high capacity networks (VHCNs) and 5G ii) Broadband coverage and iii) Fixed broadband take-up. Probably, this is just a reflection of the political priorities of the EU for the digital development for rural areas which is mainly focused on the deployment of this type of infrastructure. It is fair to mention that there is also some support geared towards the digitalisation of the agricultural sector within the Common Agricultural Policy, while the rest of rural sectors and social cohorts are not a political priority for the moment.

Hence, maybe there is a need for the development of a Digital Economy and Rural Society Index (DERSI) to help rural policy-makers and rural development implementers to target better actions and help to achieve a fairer development in the EU, avoiding that rural areas are lagged behind compared to their urban counterparts.

In the meantime, you can find all the information related to rural areas in pages 19-28 of the report.

Find more news about rural digital transformation  here: https://rural-innovation.eu/digital-transformation-news/