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Notable progress but challenges persist, EC Cyprus Digital Decade Report says

In 2023, Cyprus made notable progress but important challenges persist, the European Commission's Cyprus 2024 Digital Decade Country Report says. 

"In 2023, Cyprus made notable progress in gigabit connectivity infrastructure, notably Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) coverage. However, important challenges persist in at least basic digital skills and e-health.  In the past year, Cyprus has progressed in the share of ICT specialists in employment" it says. 

Referring to the two main strengths or areas of progress it mentions connectivity infrastructure and ICT specialists.

Regarding connectivity infrastructure, it says that Cyprus already reached the target of 100% coverage of populated areas in 2022.

Very High Capacity Networks (VHCN) coverage in Cyprus (77.1%) was slightly below the EU average (78.8%), but the recent average annual growth of 28.5% shows a pace of progress almost four times faster than the EU average of 7.4%.

VHCN coverage of households living in sparsely populated areas (55.7%) is slightly above the EU average (55.6%), which also demonstrates the fast growth since 2022 (35%).

Furthermore, Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) coverage in the country stands at 77.1%, above the EU average (64.0%), showing a positive dynamic.  

ICT specialists, it adds, make up 5.4% of the Cypriot population in employment, above the EU average (4.8%). This is a remarkable annual growth of 17.4%, well above the average EU annual growth of 4.3%. 

The two main weaknesses or areas to improve are basic digital skills and E-health, the Report says.

Regarding basic digital skills, it notes that in 2023, less than half of Cyprus’ population (49.5%) had at least a basic level of digital skills, which is below the EU average of 55.6%. Moreover, the digital divide persists across age groups: although 71.8% of young people (16-24 years old) have at least a basic level of digital skills, only 59.6% in the 25-54 age group and 18.4% in the 55-74 age group have at least a basic level of digital skills.

As far as E-health is concerned, the Report says that in 2023, Cyprus slightly decreased compared to 2022 (70.2). The main gaps are the inability to authenticate with a notified e-ID scheme and the access service not following web accessibility guidelines. However, Cyprus notified an e-ID scheme to the Commission in 2023.

Cyprus must improve its performance towards the Digital Decade targets and objectives, to foster competitiveness, resilience, sovereignty, and promote European values and climate action.

The Report notes that Cyprus’ roadmap demonstrates that the country plans some effort to achieve the Digital Decade objectives and targets. It sets targets for 12 out of 14 key performance indicators (KPIs) and, in most of the cases, targets are aligned with the EU 2030 ambitions. To achieve its digital transformation, Cyprus plans to allocate a total budget (excluding private investments) estimated at EUR 247 million (0.8% GDP). 

Moreover, it refers to the Special Eurobarometer 'Digital Decade 2024' which provides insight into perception of digital rights.

It indicates that only 43% of respondents in Cyprus believe the EU protects their digital rights effectively, a decrease of 10 percentage points compared to 2023. Concerns are notable, it adds, with 54% worried about children's online safety (+15 points compared to 2023), and 47% concerned about control over personal data (+12 points).

"These findings underscore the need to reinforce digital rights at national level," the European Commission says. 

However, 58% appreciate access to online public services and freedom of assembly and association in the online environment, it concludes. 

(Source: CNA)

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