Chronicle

Accessible summer greetings

It is getting better! According to the Digital Economy and Society Index, Desi, the whole EU is becoming more digitized, which of course means major opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer

At the same time, 44 % of Europeans lack basic IT skills, which is an important number to remember when we talk about all potential benefits - they are not yet available to everyone.

The Nordic countries which are our home-markets have, together with the Netherlands, the most advanced digital economies in the EU. When it comes to Digital Public Services, Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands are the top performers.

Demand for IT expertise is higher than supply in all EU countries, including the mature markets. Companies say it's hard to recruit IT specialists and that is something we see everyday.

Accessibility is not mentioned specifically in the report, but it is noted that the digital divide is a major challenge that must be bridged in order not to slow down development. Not least because more and more jobs are digitized in some form.

It is interesting that one of Desi's recommendations is to create a national partnership with many different stakeholders for digital skills and a strategy for reducing the gaps. It sounds like a good description of the Swedish government's User Forum, which unfortunately was closed down a few years ago.

How is digitalization connected to inclusion?

From our perspective it is, of course, interesting to compare the Desi index with status of web accessibility. And, not surprisingly, the countries below the EU average in Desi are also less developed areas when we measure web accessibility.

Poland, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania belong to the countries where there is room for improvement in both digitization and accessibility. It will be exciting to see if Slovakia and Slovenia, which, according to Desi, are making the most progress in digitization, will also begin to move forward when it comes to accessibility.

Before everybody disappears into lazy holidays, we have another meeting in the Web Accessibility Accessibility Directive expert group with the Member States' representatives and the Commission in Brussels. We have just submitted our first report with recommendations on monitoring methodology, accessibility statements and standards for mobile. In several of the countries where we are involved in the transposition, the first reports on implementation of the directive in national law will be published. The European Parliament will vote on a much debated report from the IMCO Committee about a severely weakened European Accessibility Act in June.

But after that, it's time to cut the moorings and drift away on the ocean, focusing on all the unread novels instead. I hope all our customers and partners will enjoy exciting or peaceful holidays, depending on your taste and needs.

Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2017, opens in new window

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