Central Europe’s Digital Divide

The Region Risks Being Left Behind If It Doesn’t Adapt Quickly

26 November 2020

Solutions to region’s woes in technological implementation lie in familiar places (e.g. reskilling, etc.), but with new focuses on adaptability.

The use of technology in non-IT sectors is comparatively dire in Central Europe, and this assessment has been backed up by numerous reports from the World Economic Forum.

The time to effectively change the situation was sadly 10 to 15 years ago, but now the current circumstances have exacerbated the difference to another level.

Accelerated setbacks

Since the pandemic hit, we have all had to come to terms with the reality of a pre-vaccinated, COVID-19 world. Many tools have become commonplace to address the needs of remote working, such as online collaborative dashboards and meeting rooms, but what is missing is the ability to implement technology which can aid in the optimisation of production.

Bulgaria can be used as an excellent case study; there, the IT sector is booming, and it’s growing influence is having a positive effect on the country’s GDP. However, the use of technology – from digitalisation to the implementation of AI and robotics to nanotechnology – in other sectors is sorely lacking and needs to be addressed. This is a pattern you can see repeated across Central Europe.

Frankly, either the reluctance, lack of knowledge or incapability of incorporating technology by business in Central Europe is greatly hampering their ability to grow and to scale up. Yet, the problem also stems from a deficiency of resources.

Forty per cent of companies report difficulty in attaining suitable candidates for the job openings they have on offer, and with the fluidity of the European labour market, the candidates who are qualified may relocate to better-paying opportunities in neighbouring nations or even further west, adding to the already existent brain drain and further exacerbating the situation for struggling companies in Central Europe.

If nothing is done soon, the reality for these companies is that they will have predictable outcomes – many will not survive the overwhelming hardships brought by divergent, internal inefficiencies. What is more worrying is that even if these companies, whose products could be competitive in the regional and global levels, do start the process of modernisation, their delay and current level of optimisation may entail additional, future hurdles in entering the larger markets if established companies dominate the space before they are able to effectively adapt.

Next steps

In the situation Central Europe finds itself, education will have to be one of the foremost solutions to tackle the issues facing the industry and the general business sector.

This does include expected components of educational reform like widespread and multipolar reskilling programmes – especially in places of production hit hardest by the Covid-19 recession – but most importantly, it requires us to prepare the next generation to be adaptable.

We can attempt to predict which sectors will require advanced knowledge and skills. Promotion of those areas should help the current and next generations find successful employment, and, in so doing, help spearhead the innovative companies working in CE reach wider markets.

However, trends change, innovations develop, industry shifts and destabilisation occurs; if the working populace is capable of handling these challenges, the future for Central European businesses can be far brighter than the current outlook.

 

 

This is a summary of a session with Eva Maydell MEP at the New Europe 100 Forum on 27-28 October 2020, edited by Galan Dall, Editor-at-Large of Visegrad Insight. Find out more about the upcoming New Europe 100 Forum, future activities and our partners here. For updates, follow @NewEurope100.

The article is part of a project supported by the International Visegrad Fund.

 

 

 

 

Galan Dall

Managing Editor of Visegrad Insight

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