Digitalisation is the key to economic recovery, according to the 'Digital Society in Spain #sdiE' report.
We are living through an unprecedented historic era that, as a society, forces us to assimilate vital challenges for the growth of our country: it is necessary to address the digital transition of all sectors, transform companies, alleviate the lack of ICT professionals, reduce digital divides… A common effort to prevent anyone from being left behind in this new technological wave and that we can face with optimism, because Spain occupies a privileged situation in digitisation and connectivity, as highlighted in the ‘Digital Society in Spain 2022’ report.
Digital transformation is presented as a key lever for economic growth and a tool for recovery, with a special role for 5G. The deployment of this technology will mean, in our country, investments worth more than 5,000 million euros and the creation of more than 300,000 jobs. In addition, it is emerging as an essential lever for promoting environmental sustainability, reducing total annual emissions in the European Union by up to 20%. These are data collected in ‘The Digital Society in Spain 2022’, which compiles the most relevant social indicators to measure progress towards digitalisation.
The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation
The degree of digitalisation of Spanish society has been one of the main reasons why organisations and individuals have been able to recover or maintain their activity after the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the pandemic has boosted the country’s digital transition, placing Spain in ninth place among the 27 European Union Member States in the European Commission’s DESI 2021 report (Digital Economy and Society Index), moving up two places compared to the previous year.
Spain stands out especially in connectivity and digital public services, however, SMEs still have room to boost their competitiveness through aspects such as big data, artificial intelligence or sales through e-commerce.
Spain, leader in connectivity
Spain is among the top four OECD countries with the highest proportion of fibre optic accesses in relation to total fixed broadband accesses. Looking at the European level, Spain continues to be among the Member States with the best connectivity, and in fact, in 2021 our country moved up three places, reaching third position, surpassed only by Denmark and the Netherlands.
Of the traffic carried at national level (99% of total traffic), 78.7% corresponded to 4G networks. 5G networks started to carry traffic in 2020, albeit almost token traffic (1.8% of the national total).
The steady increase in high-speed broadband coverage is the result of the investment efforts of telecommunications operators. In 2020, despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, investment again exceeded EUR 5 billion.
A legal framework for digital transformation
In 2021, the European institutions have continued their intense regulatory activity to adapt the current framework to new digital trends, enabling better exploitation of the digital transformation in the Member States. The two most important proposals of the European Commission, published at the end of 2020, to define the new rules of the game for digital services aimed at protecting users’ rights and preventing anti-competitive behaviour by large digital platforms (Digital Services Act – DSA and Digital Markets Act – DMA) have continued their legislative procedure during 2021.
Entertainment drives internet use
Digital entertainment continues to be one of the main reasons for internet use: almost two thirds (64.7%) of Spanish internet users watched multimedia content in 2021, making it one of the main uses of the internet.
Among the channels or media that users prefer for digital services, access continues to be via computer, smartphone and tablet; however, other devices (smart speakers, smart TVs, activity bracelets, home IoT systems, smart home appliances) are beginning to have a prominent presence.
- In 2021, for the first time, more than half of households (53.1%) will have an internet-connected smart TV, almost 11 points more than in 2020.
- Computers have benefited from the consolidation of teleworking and e-learning. Almost all (97.2%) of people who teleworked in 2021 used a computer for teleworking, 20.9 points more than in 2020.
- In relation to smartphones, all uses have grown in 2021:
- 52.2% of internet users say they listen to music, radio programmes or podcasts with their smartphone, 1.3 points more than in 2020.
- 38.9% watch multimedia content via their smartphone, 6.8 points more than in 2020.
- And 38.1% make purchases using this device, a similar percentage to 2020.
Digital divides persist
Despite progress towards digitisation, gaps remain. One of the most obvious is age-related, where 30% of those over 65 do not use the internet. Another digital divide is related to the level of education and qualification: in 2021, one fifth of Spanish households did not have a computer, a device necessary to carry out advanced uses of the internet, such as teleworking or online training.
This highlights the need for public policies that help to reduce the digital skills gap without forgetting the gap resulting from the lack of availability of sufficient devices.
Spanish companies transforming
The benefits of digital technologies and with them their competitiveness. Most companies only use their websites to offer corporate information, and very few have more advanced uses, such as the possibility of placing orders or making online reservations.
Social media applied to business are used on average by just over 65% of companies, a low figure considering the possibilities offered by blogs and social networks to connect with market niches and position the brand at a relatively low cost.
On the other hand, almost a third of Spanish companies with more than 10 employees have acquired a cloud computing service, 27.7% make use of the internet of things, a quarter of companies with more than 10 employees use online sales channels and, in the area of cybersecurity, more than half of the companies had defined a technology security policy in 2019, but only 25% had redefined or revised it in the last 12 months.
The #sdiE in 5 key points: Did you know…?
- The pandemic has boosted the country’s digital transition and has brought the role of technology as a lever for economic growth and as a tool for recovery into the public debate. However, there is still room for SMEs to boost their competitiveness through aspects such as big data, artificial intelligence and e-commerce.
- The education system faces numerous challenges to advance in its digital transformation and train the future professionals who will guide the digitisation of our economy and society. The report shows that practically the entire educational community is in favour of the use of technology: 99% of head teachers, 89% of teachers and 83% of families.
- Spain is among the 4 OECD countries with the highest proportion of fibre optic access, reaching the third position of countries with the best connectivity in 2021, surpassed only by Denmark and the Netherlands.
- The lack of technology professionals is a problem throughout Europe and is exacerbated in Spain. In 2021, Spain had 72,000 ICT specialists, equivalent to 3.8% of total national employment, compared to 4.8% on average in the European Union. Only 17% of Spanish companies have digital technology specialists in-house, compared to 19% of European companies. By size, in large companies the percentages are 67% in Spain and 76% in Europe, while among SMEs they fall to 16% and 18%, respectively.
- In Spain, the main digital gender gaps, more than with access to and use of the Internet, are related to training and the labour market. Of the 4.2 million STEM employed in Spain, barely 10% work in the most digital sectors of the Spanish economy, of which only around a fifth are women (compared to 79% of men).