The DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index) is an index introduced in 2015 that measures the evolution and tracks the progress of the EU and of EU28 countries towards a more digitised economic system and society. Being a composite index, it comprises five key dimensions that, in their turn, summarise several indicators, which number grew up to 34 in the 2018 edition. Both dimensions and indicators are relatively weighted in order to calculate the index value. The main data source for DESI consists of statistical findings and, as such, depending on the form such data are collected in, as well as subject to an ongoing updating process.
The European DESI is a valuable tool to capture countries’ maturity and critical aspects in their path towards better performances. However, the level of maturity alongside with the advancement in the five dimensions and connected indicators can be affected by contextual features that are region-specific rather than country-specific, such as territories’ geographical, demographic and economic heterogeneity as well as their varying autonomy in managing processes of digital innovation. This is especially true for geographically large and densely populated countries, hence the Regional DESI. Bringing the European DESI to the level of regions (or subnational broad areas) would produce a more detailed though equally widespread picture of digital performances across the continent. Such exercise would then facilitate the territories’ understanding of their own maturity and consequently help them in sharpening the relative policy design and expenditure plans. This is especially due to the comparative precision of the Regional DESI, that embodies contextual features allowing comparison by actual similarity (for example, a comparison between Lombardy and Catalunya could be more meaningful than one between Italy and Spain as wholes). Moreover, the Regional DESI offers member States a clearer explanation of their positioning and a direct indication of its target territories.
Now, since regions are territorial units and political actors which dynamics differ from those of states as well as within countries and across borders, the Regional DESI cannot simply consist of the application of the European DESI to smaller analysis objects. In order to produce a tool that be meaningful yet applicable and most importantly comparable to the European DESI, we refined a method to calculate the Regional DESI, structured in four stages. The Regional DESI was first use to analyse the Italian territory.
- Check on data availability
At stage 1, we analysed the main national and international information sources (amongst others: Istat, for Italy and Eurostat, for Europe) and we extensively collected potentially relevant data.
- Identification of adequate proxies
As the value of some DESI indicators could not be calculated at a regional level, we looked for proxies that could lead to the measurement of the same phenomena captured by the missing indicators.
For example, the monitoring of the implementation of Piano Strategico per la Banda Ultralarga (Strategic Plan for Ultrafast Broadband - http://bandaultralarga.italia.it) of the Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico (Ministry of Economic Development) worked as a proxy for NGA coverage and Ultrafast broadband coverage indicators.
- Selection of indicators
The criteria we applied to select relevant indicators were data reliability, i.e. picking the most recent information, and meaningfulness, i.e. territorial granularity alongside with the regional areas, macro-areas (North-West, North-East, Centre, South, Islands), and country area.
- Engineering of the regional DESI
The fourth and last stage consisted of the standardisation of reviewed data in order to make the Regional DESI comparable to the European DESI. This process was performed according to the methodology defined by the EC.
In reference to the 34 Regional DESI indicators, the Italian Regional DESI is the result of:
- 11 indicators based on the most recent Italian DESI;
- 7 indicators calculated at macro-areas level;
- 4 indicators based on Eurostat NUTS 2 regional data;
- 10 indicators based on regional Istat data;
- 2 indicators based on data collected by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.
Future steps and objectives
In the upcoming months, we aim at enriching the index with more available data and at refining its structure. Such work might benefit of dialogue amongst member states, in order for the Regional DESI to account for the specificity of data sources and data collection methods across all European regions.
For these reasons, we would like to invite this community to share knowledge about similar research and/or practices aiming at the same measurement. Such exchange should encourage a broader debate on the feasibility of our research and a virtuous application of such indicators to regional contexts.
Further information available here.
Idea by Michele Benedetti, Luca Gastaldi, Giulia Marchio, Irene Vanini
Digital Agenda Observatory – Politecnico di Milano