COVID-19: A Game-Changer toward Digital Transformation? The first PromethEUs’ DigitalTalk

“COVID-19: A GAME-CHANGER. TOWARD DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION? Best Practices and Experiences from Southern Europe” – the first Digital Talk organised by PromethEUs held on 26 May on Google Meet.

The event brought together more than 45 public and private stakeholders from four Southern European countries (Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) – EU and national institution representatives, companies, academic institutions, research and business organisations, trade and consumer associations and other relevant stakeholders – to share best practices and the main barriers faced during the pandemic and to debate on how this crisis could accelerate the digitalisation of our economies and societies.

After the opening speech by Stefano da Empoli, I-Com President, a stimulating panel discussion followed. The panel, moderated by Aggelos Tsakanikas, IOBE Scientific Advisor, was attended by Julio Villalobos, Corporate Director & Chief Digital Officer, ESADE Business & Law School; João Castro, Head of Digital Experience Lab and Professor, Nova School of Business and Economics; Luca Manuelli, President, National Technological Cluster ‘Fabbrica Intelligente’; Giorgia Abeltino, Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy South Europe, Google; and Konstantinos Chambidis, Chief of Staff, Greek Ministry of State and Digital Governance.

After a Q&A session, Gian Paolo Manzella, Undersecretary of State, Italian Ministry of Economic Development took the floor, with closing remarks made by Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques, Vice-Chair, IMCO Committee, European Parliament.

Speakers and participants agreed on the fact that the Covid-19 crisis and its first social and economic consequences have pushed everyone – from small to large companies, from the public sector to workers and consumers – towards a digital transformation. From teleworking to distance learning, from e-commerce to virtual events, people are now experiencing the potential of digital technologies in everyday life like never before.

Stakeholders offered a stimulating and comprehensive exchange of views on the digitalisation issue, focusing on SMEs, employees and citizens’ skills. Speakers highlighted the particular momentum our countries are experiencing, arguing that the crisis offers the opportunity to accelerate the digital transformation of our societies. Digital will become the main element to foster Southern European recovery, and empowering citizens and SMEs, particularly in the traditional sectors, is key to boosting productivity and enhancing the competitiveness of our economies.

It has been noted that digital technologies have been a key element for the manufacturing sector to mitigate the negative consequences of the Covid-19 emergency. Another major issue that emerged during the debate regarded the importance of high-level skills as crucial to enhancing digital transformation. Moreover, a more gender balanced access to the ICT sector is considered highly important for the long-term growth of EU economies and societies.

Speakers and participants agreed on the fact that Southern European societies have all the potential to embrace the digital revolution, and Covid-19 will be the game-changer for digital transformation with the public sector being key to accelerating this process. We should strive to allow SMEs to benefit from digitalisation, fostering private and public sector cooperation and, thus, empowering the innovation ecosystem as a whole.

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