The size of the digital economy in Spain approached 19% of GDP in 2019, placing our country above most countries in the world, but far from digital leaders such as the United States or China. This is the main conclusion of the report Digital Economy in Spain, presented on June 22 by the Spanish Association of Digital Economy (Adigital) and Boston Consulting Group.
The document, which proposes a definition of digital economy and establishes a methodology for its calculation, reveals the increasingly decisive role that the digital transformation is playing in the Spanish economy and foresees an acceleration of this process as a consequence of the crisis generated by the COVID-19 (in light of phenomena such as the increase in the penetration of ecommerce or the strengthening of teleworking). Hence the importance of limiting and measuring it as an indicator of prosperity in Spain.
The report distinguishes between direct, indirect and induced impact of the digital economy on the whole of the Spanish economy, stopping especially in the first one (the direct impact) which is already close to 9% of the national GDP. This result places the digital economy as the second most relevant sector in the Spanish economy, only surpassed by real estate (12.3%), and above the main sectors such as accommodation and catering (6.2%) or retail trade (6%).
In this regard, Pablo Claver, Managing Director and Partner of BCG and leader of the organization and people practice, highlights that “the novelty of the report lies in combining a traditional macroeconomic approach to measuring the digital economy with detailed analysis of numerous digital use cases; this approach allows us to quantify, in a systematic and consistent manner, the size of the digital economy in Spain along the value chains of the different sectors”.
“The study reveals that there are leading sectors that have adopted the digital component as part of their culture, and that they account for 33% of the digital economy despite representing only 3.6% of GDP. On the other hand, today there are sectors that are less digitized and that are accelerating their transformation and we expect them to contribute very significantly in the coming years. Thanks to this acceleration, we expect digital investment from the private sector to grow by 6-7% per year until 2025,” says Claver.
“Digitization is a powerful engine of economic growth (in terms of GDP, competitiveness and job creation) and therefore also of progress and social welfare, and the last few months have shown us this. Therefore, we have to make a firm commitment to technology, innovation and science as a country, with the involvement of all stakeholders, public and private, and the citizens themselves, and long-term vision,” adds Carina Szpilka, president of Adigital.
In this sense, the Digital Economy in Spain report also includes a series of recommendations for a Digital Agenda for Spain. Twelve proposals in total (detailed below) grouped into four major blocks or levers for digitisation: Infrastructure and connectivity, Digital capabilities, Security, regulation and taxation, and Entrepreneurship and innovation.
Infrastructure and connectivity
- Ensure a robust infrastructure network: including 5G deployment and proper spectrum availability.
- Develop an environment that favours and promotes the development and use of enabling technologies: complementing with computing capacity tools (cloud and Artificial Intelligence) the connectivity of the territory.
- Promote a digital and intelligent Administration: evolve towards a 100% digital Administration, promote the use of Big Data and take advantage of the Administration’s contracting capacity to digitalize the economy.
- Implementing a digital education plan: from nursery education to university degrees, including vocational training
- Supporting a digital and technological training plan for workers and the self-employed: taking advantage of the inclusion of digitalisation as a lever in the Recovery Fund
- Promoting a quality and innovative labour market: including the creation of a Bureau for the Future of Work and improved protection for the self-employed
- Promote a plan for the digitalisation of SMEs: based on training, simplification of regulatory, administrative and cross-border trade barriers and improvement of public-private partnerships.
Safety, regulation and taxation
- Ensuring an environment of trust, transparency and security for the data economy: with a focus on data protection, transparency and cyber security.
- Establishing an intelligent and harmonised regulatory framework: promoting cross-cutting, technology-neutral and future-proof regulation through a true EU Digital Single Market.
- Favouring a governance of the new economy: involving key players (e.g. platforms and SMEs), public administrations, economic actors and users.
- Adopting taxation adapted to the 21st century: adapting the tax framework to the reality of the digital economy under the international consensus to boost business competitiveness in the global market.
Entrepreneurship and innovation
- Facilitate an entrepreneurial and innovative nation, capable of growth: promote the necessary conditions for key players (startups, corporations and investors) to meet, interact and generate opportunities.
The report reveals that the application of this set of recommendations, which do not claim to be exhaustive, would make it possible to close the digital gap in Spain with respect to European leaders that was revealed in the last publication of the DESI in 2020 (position 11 in Europe). Spain could move closer to countries such as Finland, Sweden and Denmark (first three positions in the DESI 2020, respectively), especially in the areas of connectivity and human capital. On the other hand, the document points out, following the recommendations would also allow us to have leading positions in cybersecurity and R&D&I as is the case with the United Kingdom (which is in the first position in the 2018 Global Cybersecurity Index and is characterized by high public-private investment in R&D&I).
For Adigital and BCG, this is the right time to make important decisions that will take advantage of the full potential of the digital economy and prevent Spain from being left behind in this technological race that is so closely linked to the prosperity of a country and its geopolitical relevance.