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Growing digitisation in the EU

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On 25th February, the European Commission published the result of the 2016 Edition of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). Good news. Data show a general growth; however, we are still far away from the full development of our digital capabilities.

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What is the DESI?

The DESI is an online tool to measure the progress of EU Member States towards a digital economy and society. More than 30 indicators define the DESI and are grouped into five policy areas: connectivity (25 % of the total score), human capital/digital skills (25 %), Internet use (15 %), integration of digital technology (20 %) and digital public service (15 %). Indeed, this index is used to identify which sectors needs more investment in order to improve the country’s performance.

The index not only shows the general status of the European Union -still far from the level of digitalization of countries such as the US or Japan-, but also points out the considerable differences among Member States. Denmark, Sweden and Finland take the lead in Europe but they are also top countries in world rankings. At the very bottom are Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia: not only their DESI score is well below the EU average, but data show also a slower growth rate, which will increase the distance from the rest of EU members. The DESI, indeed, also shows the growth rate of the nation in the field of digital technologies. And here, once again, we can see a multi-speed Europe.

Some countries have a DESI score higher than the EU average, but also record a faster growth in the last year. We are talking about Austria, Estonia, Malta, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands. Good growth rates also in Italy, Croatia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia and Spain, although their DESI score currently remains below average. However, according to analysts, there are good hopes for these countries to reduce the distances from the most digitally advanced countries. By contrast, a drop has been recorded in the growth of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Belgium, Lithuania and Ireland, though they DESI scores are still high.

What should we do to improve the situation? Last year, the EU approved the Digital Single Market strategy, a set of initiatives that countries have to deliver by the end of 2016 in order to coordinate and standardize digitization processes in EU countries. This strategy is built on three pillars: improving access to goods and digital services for consumers and industries across Europe; create a favorable environment and equal opportunities for the development of digital networks; maximise the growth potential in the sector.

Apparently, the implemented strategy is paying off. 71% of European households now have broadband access at high speed (in 2014 only 62%), while the number of subscribers to mobile broadband has increased up to 75 contracts every 100 inhabitants (compared to 64 last year). It is true, however, that there is still a lot of work to do, especially in some sectors. As the DISE report points out, for example, almost 45% of Europeans do not have basic digital skills, e.g. the use of email or the main editing tools. The e-commerce is still far from being a reality for small and medium enterprises: only 16% of them sell their products online and only 7.5% across the border. Promoting online shopping is not enough: it is essential to encourage electronic commerce, by approving a better legislation to protect consumers, especially in cross-border shopping. Finally, the data on public services are not satisfactory at all. Despite a greater variety of services made available online by Public Administrations, it seems that only 32% of users actually use these platforms.

On one hand, therefore, it is important that the EU provides a coherent and effective legislation that protects both citizens and entrepreneurs; on the other, Member States must support the creation of the digital single market, investing in the most underdeveloped sectors and promoting the digitalization of civil society. Achieving this goal will revitalize the European economy in general and make our market more competitive, but it will also allow EU members to make the most of the untapped potential, creating new opportunities (especially across the border) for enterprises, but also for individuals.

 

Paola Fratantoni

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France: new NH90 for Operation Barkhane

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The Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), the French defence procurement agency, confirms the acquisition of six additional tactic transport helicopters (Caiman model) from NH Industries, the Italian-French-Dutch industrial group owned by Finmeccanica, Airbus and Fokker. The delivery has been scheduled between 2017 and 2019.

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These new acquisitions are part of a more comprehensive renewal program to increase the helicopter fleet up to 74 Caiman units (44 of these to be delivered by 2019). The target is to reach, by the end of 2025, a fleet of 115 tactical NH90 helicopters, goal set in the Defence and Security White Paper in September 2013. As Guillaume Faury, President and CEO of Airbus Helicopters, highlights, “French armed forces have deployed the NH90 operationally in Mali, where its outstanding endurance, versatility and manoeuvrability have been greatly appreciated”.

The decision follows the request from the Army Air Corps to strengthen the capabilities of Operation Barkhane, in Africa. Last January, Gen. Oliver Gourlez de la Motte, chief of the Army Air Corps, announced the service goal to strengthen its forces, by providing 10 additional helicopters to the fleet, to be chosen between both attack and transport models. Last month, indeed, the DGA has ordered from Airbus Helicopters 7 Tiger attack helicopters, which will be delivered between 2017 and 2018.

The aim is to improve the capacity of French armed forces to conduct air-land operations in the Sahel region, in Sub-Saharan Africa. The NH90 has already been deployed in several operational theatres, showing capabilities and characteristics that make it an important resource for French forces engaged in Operation Barkhane. First of all, as already mentioned, its versatility. The NH90 can be employed in response to different tactical needs:

  • Troop and light armament transport, as it can carry up to 20 soldiers or 2.5 tonnes armaments;
  • Casualty evacuation with 12 stretchers;
  • Cargo airlift;
  • Combat, search and rescue operations.

Moreover, the additional equipment allows it to fit various needs that might arise in the operational theatre. The NH90 is provided with an automatic pilot and fly-by-wire (FBW) controls, a system that replaces traditional manual controls with an electronic interface. This reduces the workload for pilots, and makes the NH90 easier to manage. In addition, night vision sights, armor protection and electronic counter-measures make it suitable for combat operations.

These characteristics show how this vehicle becomes essential in an environment such as Sub-Saharan Africa. As we know, Operation Barkhane is a counter-terrorism operation, led by France in the Sahel region since August 2014, with Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad as participating countries. The aim is to contrast the presence of jihadist militants in the region, supporting the efforts of partner countries and to prevent the creation of terrorist sanctuaries. The 3000 soldiers engaged in the mission are based in two permanent fields, one in Gao (Mali) and the other in N’Djamena (Chad). Detachments are sent to temporary bases, located in the mission’s participating countries, from where missions to support their soldiers are launched. Therefore, it is clear how troop and armament transport is necessary to conduct the operation. Moreover, the particular environment –temperature, geographical and territorial conformation, etc.- is a key factor in elaborating interventions. The NH90 proves to be suitable for the African environment, given its endurance and versatility, which is essential in areas where difficulties and resource scarcity might undermine the aim of the mission and the lives of the soldiers involved. “The additional order of six NH90- says Guillaume Faury-…confirms the essential role that new-generation multi-role helicopters play in modern operations”.

It seem that attacks and threats to French nation and security have not changed its commitment towards foreign operations, in particular in missions targeting Islamic terrorism. By contrast, those elements, which proved to be effective, have been strengthen and pressure is made to the Government in order to reinforce French military capabilities. It is not just a matter of number of forces available but also – and most of all- of quality and technology, which have to be suitable for the type of environment and threat that soldiers are facing.

 

Paola Fratantoni

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“Technological” Defense

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«If the Allies had not understood the Enigma Cipher Machine operation, World War II would have had a different ending», said the British Intelligence Officer Frederick Wintherbotham, anticipating the future global trend of conflicts’ evolution. By the expressions “electronic war” and “technological war”, skilled specialists indicate the development of various fighting’s methods, focused on research and innovation. But progress plays a fundamental role also in terms of strategic response at the modern offensive, to restore stability in compromised geopolitical context.

There are numerous examples of this, such as the storage of biometric data by iris’ scanning for identification of jihadists, a system developed by the US, as well as the Predator, the Italian Air Force drone used to peek at the movements of Libyan and Afghan. Hence, the need to strengthen cooperation not only between different countries, but also more directly between Army, industry and university. This is an indispensable synergy to be up against threats of international terrorism and cyber attacks. A modern security pullback based on “dual systems”, which is valiant for both civil and military uses, is necessary also to revolutionize the culture itself. Strumentazioni all’avanguardia e personale addestrato al loro utilizzo.

Advanced equipment and personnel trained in their use. In this sense, the Defence White Document gaves clear instructions: it’s important to draw up a transparent long-term planning, which guarantees the efficiency of resources and an adequate enhancement of the national industrial excellence, for innovation and for job opportunities. Everything must be done in order to choose the best companies that represent a chance of growth for Italy, currently leader in the segments of aerospace and weapons production. For this purpose, specific plans will identify the best districts, creating partnerships outlined between Defense, business, universities and research world. The program will also cover the expenditure items. The last purchase marked on the Defense budget, concerns an American missil equipment for robot aircraft, while the powerful drone “Piaggio” is the novelty of “made in Italy” industry.

Viviana Passalacqua
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