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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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Digitization as an element of cohesion

the world is immersed in a process of dizzying change as a result of digitization. A transformation that goes far beyond being connected or being able to buy online, having applications on mobile phones or a website. It is about a profound change in the production and exchange of goods and services, with intelligent and autonomous systems throughout the entire value chain, which also opens up new possibilities to provide public services in a more efficient and inclusive way. A change in our economy and in the very way we live. What many consider a new era.

For this reason, it is essential to approach the process proactively, channeling it so that it results in a benefit for society as a whole. First, through the modernization of companies and new job opportunities, technological progress and increased productivity.

Second, through the protection of individual and collective rights and avoiding an increase in inequalities or discriminatory biases. Finally, taking advantage of these new tools to promote social and territorial cohesion, ensuring that no one is left behind and facilitating the implementation of professional and vital projects in any corner of the country.

Hence, the Government of Spain places this matter among its highest priorities. The Recovery Plan foresees investing a third of the planned transfers between 2021 and 2023 in the digitization of the country, about 20,000 million euros, in order to mobilize up to 50,000 million euros of private investment.

In addition, Spain must be at the forefront of the process. For this, last July the Digital Spain 2025 agenda was published and the six main strategic plans have already been adopted to deploy it, ambitious and concrete, in the areas of connectivity, 5G, Artificial Intelligence, digitization of SMEs, digital skills of citizenship and digitization of the Administration.
” The Recovery Plan plans to invest a third of the planned transfers between 2021 and 2023 in digitizing the country ”
The public investment program and the strategic agenda, very well received by all the sectors involved both at the national and European level, provide a clear roadmap to channel public and private projects and multiply the impact of decisions and investments of the different agents.

During the last 20 years, investment in this area has been mainly oriented towards the deployment of infrastructures, placing Spain among the world leaders in high-speed connectivity. The dense high-bandwidth network that Spain enjoys is undoubtedly an advantage at a time when the entire digitization process is accelerating.
” The dense high-bandwidth network that Spain enjoys is undoubtedly an advantage at a time when the entire digitization process is accelerating ”
Now it is a question of continuing to adopt the most advanced technologies in infrastructures, but, above all, of promoting the services provided over the networks, of modernizing the productive fabric and Public Administration, of promoting innovation and the development of artificial intelligence. , to open to all citizens, throughout the territory, the opportunities that digitization provides.

There are many measures and projects to be deployed in the digital agenda, but there are two absolutely key axes for the success of the process: the qualification of citizens in the digital skills and digitization of SMEs.

Indeed, an essential element for the deployment of the transformative agenda is investment in human capital, in the qualification and training of the entire population so that it can function and grow, both professionally and personally, in the new digital environment. It is an objective that requires action from school and through all levels of training.

Education is the main ‘social lift’ mechanism and, therefore, an essential element for social cohesion. Ensuring that it continues to fulfill this function in the future requires a digitization of the media, of the methodologies, a recycling of the teaching staff. In order to respond to the most urgent needs for computers and tablets so that all children can continue attending classes in the context of the pandemic, in these months the Educa en Digital program is being deployed in the different Autonomous Communities.
” An essential element for the deployment of the transformative agenda is investment in human capital, in the qualification and training of the population as a whole ”

In addition, it is necessary to promote the requalification of workers and also increase the number of graduates and doctors specialized in the technological field in order to respond to the demand of the different sectors that the Recovery Plan itself will promote. And all this with a special attention to promoting vocations and the qualification of women and girls in the field of science and technology to avoid a widening of the gender gap due to less access to future jobs.

The second axis to highlight is the digitization of SMEs, which make up the bulk of our productive fabric and without which it is unthinkable to achieve a real transformation of the economy. For this reason, the Plan foresees the acceleration of investments in this area and work is being done on channels and instruments that allow the efficiency and capillarity of investment, so that it reaches and promotes the transformation of small and micro-enterprises throughout the territory. national already in 2021.

To give just one example, the Digital Toolkit program foresees 3,000 million euros of public investment to offer our business fabric a set of basic digitization packages, which include everything from enabling tools, training, a website or resource management systems and clients, to Internet sales mechanisms, digital marketing or cybersecurity training.

This initiative will also be accompanied by connectivity bonuses so that all SMEs can have Internet connection, and a program so that experts in digital transformation can join companies and help them develop their digitization plan.

These are just some of the projects that we are already deploying, which will necessarily go through public-private collaboration. For this reason, different contact and idea exchange forums have been opened, such as the Digital Transformation Advisory Commission or the new Digital Competences Hub, set up a few days ago with social agents, company executives and foundations to advance together in this important axis of transformation.

The first invitations to expression of interest have also been launched to gather information to refine the design of investment programs in the field of connectivity and the deployment of 5G, which has received an important response, with more than 140 relevant contributions since the public and private sphere.

For its part, the invitation launched by the Ministry of Ecological Transition to face the demographic challenge and fight against depopulation has also received more than 70 proposals for digital connectivity projects in rural areas with difficult coverage, both broadband and mobile. This type of project will be essential to strengthen territorial cohesion and fight against the depopulation of some areas of our country. For their part, the different plans and initiatives proposed by the autonomous communities also provide highly useful information to coordinate efforts and multiply the impact.

All this effort to speed up the deployment of the Plan in the digital field is reflected in the General State Budgets, which foresee in 2021 an investment in digitization of more than 3,700 million euros, six times that of previous years, in programs of transformation of our public administrations, of innovation in Artificial Intelligence and for the development of the data economy, in the promotion of startups, the extension of high-speed connectivity throughout the territory, the implementation of 5G in the large corridors of road and rail transport or the promotion of Spain as an international audiovisual hub.

And all this by putting the citizen at the center, without losing sight of the human dimension of digitization and the need to protect our values ​​in this new reality. In this field, Spain has launched the development of a Charter of Digital Rights, with the help of a multidisciplinary group of experts, which has been submitted to public consultation and will result in a set of principles and recommendations that can guide action legislative and administrative, both at national, European and global level.

The digitization process is, without a doubt, one of the defining elements of the time we live in. It is a source of great opportunities and also of challenges that affect the foundations of our production model and of our political and social fabric.

To address them, to guide the process in line with our values, we have defined a roadmap that can mobilize and also multiply the impact of the public and private investments that will be deployed in the coming years. So that digitization is a lever for economic growth, job creation and social, economic and territorial cohesion.

*** Nadia Calviño is third vice president of the Government and minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.

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