'Mixed performance' for Malta in ICT development
Malta's fact sheet, issued as part of the report, says "user skills levels in ICT in the workforce are among the highest in the EU. Expert level skills are, however, now below average. Enterprise connectivity and technology use was in 2005 generally already above the EU average of 2006, so it seems safe to assume that Malta here performs above average".
However, the percentage of broadband subscriptions is just below the EU average and has shown slow growth compared to previous years. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) accounts for more than half of all broadband connections.
"Despite only slightly below average broadband penetration, a market for paid audiovisual online content has not materialised so far, possibly due to the market's limited size and average broadband speeds," according to the report.
While Maltese e-government got the best grade among European member states, the number of Maltese enterprises interacting online with public authorities was higher in 2005 than the EU average of 2006. However, the same interaction with the public is below the EU average.
Schools are also very well connected, scoring second in Europe but the availability of computers and teacher use in classroom is only average. Each year the annual report on i2010 assesses the economic impact of EU member states' efforts to deploy ICT. It also provides a benchmark on the effectiveness of the Commission's policy to build sustainable economic growth in such technologies.
The conclusion of the latest report is that public and private investment in ICT is bearing fruit. Technology is fuelling innovation and productivity, and there are signs of a fundamental change in markets and user behaviour as Europe moves towards a knowledge-based economy.
The ICT sector continues to grow faster than Europe's overall economy and contributed nearly half of EU productivity growth between 2000 and 2004, with software and IT services currently the most dynamic growth area (5.9 per cent for 2006-2007).
European research received a major boost from the 7th Framework Research Programme's launch, the largest single item of which is over â‚¬9 billion for ICT research. However, despite national investment expected to bring research spending to 2.6 per cent of GDP by 2010, a further effort is still needed if the EU is to reach its three per cent target, the Commission said.
The report also shows that businesses are investing in new and more mature ICT solutions, which means that Europeans are quickly embracing new online services.
At a national level, the report reveals that Italy leads in 3G mobile phone and fibre development while the most households with digital TV are in the UK. Six countries - Denmark, The Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, the UK and Belgium - all have higher broadband penetration rates than the US and Japan.
Such broadband penetration levels have positive knock-on effects. For example ICT-deployment in Danish schools is the highest in Europe and Danish businesses are the EU's most advanced internet and e-business users; the British and Swedish workforce are the most skilled in ICT; the Dutch are the most avid consumers of games and music online; and Finland has Europe's highest use of public access points and invests the most in ICT research (64.3 per cent of its R&D business expenditure). Sweden and Finland also spend 3.9 per cent and 3.5 per cent of their GDP on research, this being over the EU's three per cent target.
This year's i2010 report also sets out key policy issues for the future, which will be debated during a review of the strategy later in 2007. These include assessing the policy implications of emerging trends in networks and the internet; strengthening the user perspective in ICT innovation; and improving growth by removing artificial "national borders" for online services. The review will begin with a round table on next generation networks and the internet in the autumn, the Commission said.