Wednesday

22nd Mar 2017

Opinion

Fixing Europe’s digital skills gap

  • Google pledges to train 2 million Europeans in partnership with the European Commission. (Photo: Paul L Dineen)

Don’t believe the pessimists.

You might read that Europe is lagging way behind the US when it comes to startups and the web. The truth is, Europe is a hotbed of creative and successful developers.

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Many apps and websites you use to get about town more easily, entertain yourself, book a holiday, were born in Europe. Angry Birds, BlaBlaCar, Skyscanner, Candy Crush Saga, SwiftKey and countless more were built here and have risen to become household names the world over.

Then there are apps you may not have heard of yet: Edjing, a DJ app for music lovers that now has 60 million users in more than 180 countries. Or EyeEM, an app allowing 13 million photographers to share and sell their work. There are success stories from all 28 EU countries.

You might read that only companies based in Silicon Valley are growing into large global businesses, and that they’ve cornered the market on both money and talent.

In fact European startups are becoming increasingly valuable. Since 2000, Europe has had nearly two thirds as many digital startups reaching $1 billion valuation as those in the US (24 in EU vs 39 in US). We also know that businesses in Europe who make the most of the web grow twice as fast as their counterparts.

But it’s also fair to say there’s more to be done to make sure Europe succeeds in the digital world. We believe Europe needs one set of rules to make it easier to trade across 28 countries; Europe also needs to be kept open to digital trade and data; and the EU needs to take a positive, open attitude to digital growth.

A Digital Single Market in Europe is a huge opportunity. Reform could raise the EU’s GDP by at least 4% by 2020, and generate up to €415 billion of additional growth. That is worth having.

And perhaps the single biggest factor is people—there’s a digital skills gap throughout the Union. According to a European Commission report, almost half the EU population (47%) is not properly digitally skilled, yet in the near future, 90% of jobs will require some level of digital skills.

They also reported that up to 900,000 jobs will go unfilled by 2020 because of this skills gap. And we’re not just talking about complex computer programming or coding or software development, but basic skills useful to all businesses from multinationals to corner shops—how to build a website, marketing your products and services online, building a valuable following on social media.

With this skills gap in mind, a year ago I was in Brussels to make a pledge: that Google would train one million Europeans in digital skills by the end of 2016. We also pledged to build a Europe-wide online hub to support our training efforts. We’re delighted to have already reached our goal to train one million Europeans in digital skills, and our online training platform is now available to all.

Today we’re doubling our pledge to a total of two million. So we’ll aim to train another million Europeans in digital skills. We’re doing this in partnership with the European Commission, making the pledge part of their Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, which aims to tackle the lack of digital skills in in Europe.

We’re extending our programme because we believe that more needs to be done to help Europe succeed in the digital world, and we want to be part of that. We’re committed to helping Europeans make the most of the digital opportunity. There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in Europe. Don’t take the naysayers at face value, this is for everyone.

Matt Brittin is president of Google Europe, Middle East and Africa

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