Better knowledge - Action 5: Developing the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) at local level (“DESI local”)

  • Cristina (Commu... profile
    Cristina (Commu...
    5 February 2018 - updated 4 months ago
    Total votes: 2


Currently, the level and progress of Europe’s digital performance is measured regularly only at the Member State level. EU member states’ digital competitiveness is measured by the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), a composite index summarising progress on connectivity, digital skills, use of internet by citizens, integration of digital technology by businesses and digital public services. The annual eGovernment Benchmark Report looks at the availability and usability of digital public services in EU Member States and indicates a need for improvement in transparency of public services delivery and use of supporting technology like eIDs or eDocuments. No such joint index, which is measured regularly, exists currently at the local government level.

Public opinion on how government is spending its tax money is becoming more and more relevant. However, an evaluation instrument to test how digital you are as a city on a local level is not yet available. It becomes a bottleneck if the measurement method is not elaborated as soon as possible, especially since local government as the closest level to citizens is the main deliverer of e-governance to people. As the services and solutions made available digitally to citizens are expected to increase dramatically along with the development of digital technologies, there has to be an evaluation method in place.

Some other indices exist which touch upon the digital economy and society, some of these at sub-national level, such as the Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEDI); the Regional Entrepreneurship and Development Index (REDI); the Digital Entrepreneurship Monitor (DEM); the Atlas of ICT Poles of Excellence (EIPE); the IESE Cities in Motion Index; the Global Innovation Index (GII); the Compass / Startup Genome Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking; the Kauffman Index; the World Economic Forum Networked Readiness Index (NRI); the European Regional Economic Growth Index (E-REGI) and others.

City level digitalisation in entrepreneurship is monitored on a project-based approach since 2015 by the European Digital City Index 2016. It combines forty different variables to produce a composite measure of how well 60 different European cities support start-ups and scale-ups. An index to annually measure different aspects of digitalisation of society and economy in European cities is missing so far. Therefore, it is difficult to assess and benchmark with comparable data the digital competitiveness of European cities and urban areas. Inability to measure progress at the level closest to citizens undermines Europe’s goals to increase its competitiveness globally.


Objective of the action – Regularly updated knowledge on EU cities’ digitalisation level and performance

Level of governance: EU, Member State, Local (all)

This action aims at creating an index on the state of digitalisation which would be measured at a local, including urban level. DESI local is needed as a first step to understand digital coverage and performance at urban level and a great opportunity to address local policies to increase the use of digital services for citizens. The aim of the partnership is to measure with DESI local the same categories of digitalization as with the national DESI index, namely, progress on connectivity, digital skills, use of internet by citizens, integration of digital technology by businesses and digital public services. The rationale behind this is to give cities/local governments the opportunity to benchmark themselves also to national average digitalization levels. The exact content of the index will be however elaborated during the implementation phase. It would help overcome the gap of comparable hard data on the level of digitalisation of EU local government, including urban areas, and facilitate the development of better services to citizens. It is important to evaluate the level of diffusion of the main indicators that generate national level DESI at local and urban level to enable comparisons to be made against national average development levels and other cities. To ensure that such comparison is possible it is important to use the same list of indicators and the same evaluation methodology. It follows that agreement would be needed on setting up and measuring DESI local index between the EU Member States.


  • Analysis of data sources for DESI local to assess which data sources for the proposed index already exist and which are missing
  • The development of DESI local index (composite)
  • Assessment of estimated costs related to data collection for DESI local from 3-5 Member States as a first step


First, the proposal for a composite DESI index at the local level will be elaborated by the partnership including relevant indicators covering various aspects of digitalisation. The starting point is to use the same variables as DESI at the Member State level, allowing also comparison of local/city level to national figures. The measurement rules in the local DESI should also be clear and transparent and easily disseminated  so that actions for improvements can be clearly identified. On a voluntary basis cities and national authorities can participate in the development and implementation of the DESI local index. As the first step, the partnership calculates the related costs of collecting data for DESI local for 3-5 Member States to assess the feasibility to spread this across EU. National statistical systems should contribute to the National Statistical Programme by introducing the DESI implementation at local, including urban level. Partners will also investigate the possibility to use other sources of data besides statistics, such as household surveys, customer journeys, etc.

Once it has been identified how the data collection process can be performed, it is necessary to establish who the actors are and their relationship (is it the same local administration or a data supplier?). Partners will investigate whether the collection of some data could eventually be automated. Analysis to identify the data source at local level for each indicator must be carried out and a cost-benefit analysis to optimise the statistical process performed. The Statistical Offices at local level are the main actors to be involved.


  • Preparation: 2018 Q2 –Q3 Preparation of the DESI local composite.
  • Implementation: 2018 Q3 – 2019 Q3 Assessment of available data sources; estimate of costs.
  • Assessment: 2019 Q4 – Development of the Index Proposal.

Action leader

Rome and Estonia




See also: