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February 25, 2014

Italy: Is Europe missing the digital revolution?

If Europe is in decline, it is partly because it does not invest enough in the internet and the development of the digital economy, thereby leaving much of the business potential and economic growth offered by the web unexplored. Out of 35 European countries, only 9 have at least half their companies on the internet, and a very high percentage of the companies throughout Europe that went bankrupt in 2013 had no online presence at all.

The correlation between a lack of digital outlets and bankruptcy is food for thought: according to the Internet Barometer of Email-Brokers, the Belgian database management and interactive marketing company that published the data, there is a very clear cause and effect at work: “With Europe facing economic challenges” says William Vane Wiele, CEO of Email-Brokers, “the web may be the key that opens up new opportunities for companies, making them more dynamic and ensuring their long-term survival”. The proof, says Vane Wiele, lies in company bankruptcy statistics for 2013: 87% of German companies that went under had no web presence, compared with 86% for the Netherlands, 84% for Spain, 83% for Italy, 82% for Belgium and 81% for France.

The countries with the highest company web presence rates are Germany (64%), Belgium (63%) and the Netherlands (59%), but Email-Brokers reveals that even these “excellent” percentages did not increase versus the previous year. Italy also belongs to the group with a majority of its companies online (53%), while at the opposite end of the spectrum, where digital development is way behind, are Lithuania (with only 6% of companies online), Albania (18%) and Serbia (19%).

According to Vane Wiele, this is not just down to inertia or a lack of awareness among companies, but also the fault of national parliaments, which, rather than promoting digital development to boost competitiveness,  focus constantly on data protection, which slows it down.

For companies, an effective online presence also involves using social networks and e-commerce: in terms of social media, the most “developed” country is Spain, where 25% of companies with a web presence are also active on social channels, followed by Sweden (24%), the Czech Republic (19%) and Belgium. Italy is slightly behind, with 17%. At the bottom of this ranking are Malta (1%), Estonia (2%), Cyprus (3%) and Albania (4%).

The situation is even more static in terms of e-commerce: the European leaders are the UK and the Czech Republic, where however only 11% of businesses use the web as an extra sales channel. In Italy, just 5% of companies are involved in e-commerce.



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