The pandemic has taught EU citizens several lessons, one of them being that technology is a key tool to help us adapt to challenging situations affecting all spheres of society. At the same time, the pandemic has exposed a growing digital divide between well-connected urban areas and rural areas, between those who know how to use the digital space, and those who don't. The availability, the actual use of technology and the ability to harness the vast opportunities that digital technologies offer have therefore had a huge impact on cohesion across the EU.
The proposed CoR opinion, which will be based on the results of an upcoming CoR "Territorial foresight study on addressing the digital divide and promoting digital cohesion", aims to look at reasons for the growing digital divide, the challenges facing cities, regions, businesses and citizens linked to the digital transition and the ways in which the EU can be more cohesive in terms of digital transformation. It should also reflect on the proceedings and conclusions from the Conference on the Future of Europe and seek to promote digital cohesion as an important additional dimension of the traditional concept of economic, social and territorial cohesion defined in the EU Treaty.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
recalls that the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) highlighted digital cohesion as a key anchor in creating inclusive societies in the EU: "digital cohesion" is an important additional dimension of the traditional concept of economic, social and territorial cohesion defined in the EU Treaty ;
notes that the scope of measures to take to address digital divides overlap several policy areas, making digital cohesion a horizontal endeavour. Therefore welcomes the COFE's recognition of digital cohesion as complementary to economic, social and territorial cohesion ; considers that digital cohesion is a component of economic, social and territorial cohesion and that it has to be addressed as a public service good;
notes that digital skills and digital infrastructure are key for the development of all the other dimensions of the Digital Compass and thus recommends that the European Commission undertake and commit to a dedicated long-term strategy, resources and coordination mechanisms, leveraging large scale projects based on Member States cooperation, to ensure every citizen has up-to-date digital skills and infrastructures;
suggests that a robust and comprehensive system of local digital indicators measuring digital maturity be developed to serve as background for decision-making, including as criteria for determination of resources for economic, social and territorial cohesion within the meaning of the Common Provisions Regulation currently in force;
proposes that the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions shall cooperate to move toward a Digital Compass that concretely takes into account the territorial dimension. This will allow moving from the assessment of progress in terms of digitalisation and digital transformation in Europe to the evolution of digital cohesion across territories.