Austria: a snapshot of digital skills
In the 2022 edition of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) Austria ranks is 11 in Human capital category, with score 51 (EU average 45.7). From 2017 to 2022, the country has progressed at an average yearly relative growth rate of 8 percentage points as regards the DESI indicators, continuously above the EU average.
On Human capital, according to DESI report, Austria performs better than the EU average in almost all indicators, except for the percentage of enterprises providing ICT training, which is slightly below the EU average. The percentage of ICT specialists in employment has reached the EU average; it increased from 4.3% to 4.5%. The percentage of female ICT specialists is EU average (19% for both). For enterprises providing ICT training, Austria is slightly below the average (18% versus 20% for the EU), and for ICT graduates above (4.4% versus 3.9%). Austria is performing above EU average for basic digital skills (63% versus 54% for the EU), basic digital skills (33% versus 26%), and basic content creation skills (75% versus 66%).
fit4internet conducted the first representative survey, the Digital Skills Barometer, to measure digital skills in Austria based on the DigComp 2.2 AT with self-assessment and knowledge-based questions. The survey was conducted in April and May 2022 with a sample stratified by gender, age, and province among almost 4,000 people living in Austria. The results of the Digital Skills Barometer provide a detailed picture of the Austrian population's digital knowledge for the first time. The Austrian population scored between 40.8% and 43.3% on average for the knowledge-based questions. More than half of the people surveyed are only at competence level 1, which means they score just under 20% of 100% on the knowledge-based test. One fifth of the respondents achieve up to 40% (competence level 2).
Austrian National Coalition (Allianz für Digitale Skills und Berufe) was launched in October 2020 is currently led by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance and supported by fit4internet, a non-partisan and independent association with government support who is also a member of the European Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition. The partners of the Austrian National Coalition include both bodies of the public and the private sector such as governmental agencies and companies with a strong focus on digital re- and upskilling.
Overview of state strategies and national initiatives
‘Digital Austria’ initiative sets out a vision and the values for a digitally responsible society. Digital Action Plan Austria (Digitalen Aktionsplan Austria) is developed in a broad expert and stakeholder process, continuously expanded and consistently implemented, creating new growth, new jobs and new opportunities for everyone in Austria. Goals of Digital Action Plan are: make "System Austria" crisis-proof, increase competitiveness, position Austria as a digital innovation region; targeted use of data for innovations; design education, training, further training as a digital competitive advantage; targeted promotion of cutting-edge digital research; facilitate digital communication between the state and citizens.
In September 2021, Austrian government published the strategy ‘2030 Artificial Intelligence Mission Austria (AIM AT 2030)’, that can help to prepare the ground for Austria’s contribution to achieve the Digital Decade target of 75% of European enterprises using artificial intelligence. ‘AIM AT 2030’ pursues three objectives: broad use of AI oriented towards the common good, position Austria as a research and innovation location for AI and ensure its competitiveness by the development and use of AI. Strategy is also strongly focussed on developing ‘AI for green’ with implementation within two fields of action: "Trustworthy AI," which includes the creation of AI standards and a legal framework; and "Create Ecosystems," which integrates AI into education and training, technology transfer between universities, research institutes, and enterprises, and financing for enterprises that will cover the entire innovation cycle.
53% of the Austrian Recovery and Resilience Plan's €3.5 billion budget is allocated to digital transformation. The allocation of €172 million is intended to facilitate access to digital education, particularly for secondary school students. Increasing the nation's broadband coverage is a further crucial factor. Additionally €107 million from the RRP were used to establish Quantum Austria, a strategy to promote Quantum Computing research and technologies. The programme will be releasing project calls until 2026.
Fair and equal access of pupils to basic digital competence reform will establish the framework conditions and provide supporting measures to enable fair and equal access for all lower-secondary-schools pupils to basic digital competences. It includes in-service training for teachers to improve their digital teaching abilities, as well as a number of supporting actions that facilitate digitization in schools. This reform will assist in enhancing the infrastructure of the various school structures in order to maximise the use of the digital devices provided to students. In addition, the reform will provide digital solutions to facilitate pedagogical and administrative exchanges via a portal that consolidates all education and administration applications. With the entry into force of the ‘School Digitalization Act’ in 2021, the implementation of the reform is well underway and shall be completed by mid-2025.
The “Broadband Austria 2030” is the largest single investment in Austria’s Recovery and Resilience Plan. EUR 891 million will be spent on widespread availability of very high-capacity broadband networks, of up to a Gigabit per second, to benefit, among the others, public institutions and enterprises placed in rural regions and areas with unique socio-economic drivers. The final goal of providing at least 50 percent of all households with broadband access by the end of the third quarter of 2026 is being steadily approached.
Starting from school year 2022/2023 subject digital basic education (Digitale Grundbildung) is compulsory for all students in 5th to 8th grade. This subject cover, amongst others, media literacy, information processing skills, handling of personal information, and data protection.
Through the initiative ’Digi Scheck‘, the Federal Ministry for Labour and Economy funds training courses for apprentices that strengthen their professional and cross-professional competencies in future-oriented skills in the areas of digitization, climate protection, sustainability, energy and resource management and internationalization as part of dual training by means of grants. Up to EUR 500 per course with a maximum of three courses per year will be supported through public funding.
Digitale kompetenzoffensive für Österreich (Digital Skills Offensive) implementation started in February 2023. It encompasses the quality-assured teaching of digital basic skills in the population or in various domains of action, such as ICT experts, in education, among citizens, in the business world, or in the public sector. The goal is to teach everyone digital skills based on Austrian competence model for digital competences "DigComp 2.3 AT". The cross-departmental digital skills offensive ensures that forces are consolidated, and that citizens' digital skills are enhanced in a coordinated strategy, making Austrians digitally fit by 2030.
Funding opportunities for upskilling and reskilling to support the digital competences of individuals and organizations are available in form of loans, grants and financial instruments. For the period 2021 – 2026 most of the activities in digital transformation are financed through Recovery and Resilience facility but also as activities in Horizon, Erasmus+, ESIF and EEA grant schemes. You may find more on the page of Austrian Recovery and Resilience website, the Digital Austria web and in the article on the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform.