We see the approval of the Digital Poland Operational Program as a positive development. It is a completely new program, so its implementation and effects will be particularly important. As a social partner we consulted its guidelines and will be represented in the Monitoring Committee, overseeing its progress. The first meeting will take place in December 22nd, so we hope work really picks up the pace.
However, it is worth keeping in mind that this is the first operations program for the 2014-2020 perspective to be approved and given the green light by the Commission – and 2014 is coming to an end. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Development declares that the remaining documents will be approved before the end of the year, but there is not enough concrete information in this regard to be that optimistic.
The Program should accelerate the digitalization in our country. Investments in IT infrastructure are necessary not only in places where there is no internet access at all, but also in places where bandwidth is relatively low. This is also a requirement of the European Digital Agenda which is a key element of the Europe 2020 EU strategy.
Apart from support for investments in infrastructure, Digital Poland will focus on eliminating digital exclusion. Last year, 60 percent of survey respondents declared that they gad internet access. While in the EU on average 62 percent of citizens use the internet daily, this quota in Poland is only 44-46 percent (depending on research). In the EU, ever fifth citizen does not use the internet, while in Poland this is true of as many as every third citizen. This has a negative impact on the labour market, restricts access to education and eliminates citizen from some aspects of social life, which is increasingly concentrated on the internet. In particular, the gap between the young generation – which develops its digital skills almost from the cradle – and people aged 50+, for whom the internet is mostly an unused tool.
For reasons outlined above, we hope that Polish administration starts to work hard from the very first meeting of the Monitoring Committee. We have to make up ground as quickly as possible and join the group of the EU’s digital leaders in order to benefit from the digital dividend.