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Italy marks an increase in overall digital skills and Internet use between 2020 and 2021, according to 2021 data from Eurostat, which will form the basis of the 2022 edition of the European Commission’s Digital Economy & Society Index (DESI). Despite recent progress in bridging the digital divide and improvements resulting from activities promoted by the National Digital Strategy, Italy still lags behind its EU counterparts. More than 80% of Italians use the Internet, yet more than 54% of people still lack basic digital skills. Data from Istat’s Equitable and Sustainable Well-being (BES) 2021 report, combined with Eurostat’s report, can offer further insight, on aspects related to education and differences between Italian regions. 

Addressing the digital skills gaps across regions and demographic groups

Eurostat data looks at digital skills’ assessment based on the DigComp framework's competence areas (information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety, problem solving). Data from 2021 shows Italians are especially tech savvy in problem solving (88%), information and data literacy (71%), whilst weaker in others. People aged 65 to 74 have a high degree of communication and collaboration skills, in some cases surpassing younger people. 

"To improve performance across key indicators, Italy needs to address the widespread lack of digital awareness and reduce the number of people in disadvantageous and precarious positions throughout the country. In this sense, the digital divide, as the BES 2021 report points out, “tends to add to socio-cultural and economic inequalities and further exacerbates them”.

Differences in digital knowledge are pronounced across regions. Southern regions score lower than their northern counterparts, with differences of over 20% between the number of internet users in the province of Trento, compared to Molise, for example. This is also the case when we look at training opportunities and upskilling programmes for employees, where the overall improvement at national level was driven by northern regions. Despite the increase in remote working and distance learning, 3 out of 10 Italian households in 2021 still did not have access to a PC and/or a stable internet connection. At the same time, more people in Italy took part in online courses, education or training, with figures above the EU average. 

Strategic actions to bridge the digital divide and close the gap 

Italy has not stood still in recent years in its efforts to bridge the digital skills gap, and initiatives and activities on national and EU-level have achieved significant results. The National Strategy for Digital Skills and the related operational plan, developed within the framework of Repubblica Digitale (Digital Republic), chart a well-defined strategic path in digital skills policy, investing in more structural actions and ensuring relevance of ongoing initiatives. This is reflected in the Italian report of DESI in 2021, which highlighted progress in setting up a digital ecosystem with stakeholders from all level: EU institutions, civil society, public and private sector representatives, and the Italian National Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs (led by Repubblica Digitale). 

Basic and advanced digital skills are cornerstones of the Italian government’s education and social policy, and a range of actions aim to also close the ICT gender gap (only 16% of ICT experts in Italy are women).

"To support the development of more specialised skills and broad awareness on the importance of digital technologies, various actions target young people not in formal education or training, trying to tackle the shortage and gender disparities in ICT graduates, as well as the differences across regions. Another goal is aligning the higher education system and training to the needs of the world of work". 

The first steps towards this have been taken through the National strategy for digital skills, the Italian operational plan and activities under the umbrella of the Repubblica Digitale initiative. However, the road ahead is long. Commitment of all current and future actors in the area of digital skills, training, ICT, and employment is central to reaching the targets of the EU Digital Decade and addressing future challenges together. 

About the author

Nello Iacono is the coordinator of the program “Repubblica Digitale” at the Department of Technological Transformation, which supports the Italian Minister for Innovation and Digital Transition. He is an innovation expert, with a long lasting experience as a manager, consultant and entrepreneur in the digital technologies’ and skills’ sector. He is author of books and articles, centered around themes related to innovation and digital transformation.

About the Italian National Coalition

In April 2020, the Ministry for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition launched the Italian Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs. The Coalition builds on  ‘Repubblica Digitale’ - a multi-stakeholder initiative that promotes digital skills at all levels of the Italian economy and society. The initiative aims to identify and engage as many stakeholders as possible (e.g., businesses, public entities, NGOs etc.), creating a cultural change based on improving the necessary competences to fully realise the benefits of digital transformation. 


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Opinions details

Digital technology / specialisation
Geographic scope - Country
Geographical sphere
National initiative