EU’s Digitalisation will Fail Without CE’s Emerging Tech Talent

EU Digitalisation

József Boda, CEO of Codecool and Michał Mysiak, CEO of Software Development Academy examine EU’s Digital Decade initiative against the backdrop of economic recession and discuss why focusing on Central Europe talent could be the smart solution to the growing technical skills shortage. 

We are in the EU’s Digital Decade, this is an initiative to achieve a ‘successful digital transformation of the European Union by 2030’ and is ‘critical to achieve the transition towards a climate neutral, circular and resilient economy’. Launched in 2021, the initiative perhaps recognises that much of Europe’s tech sector is underperforming against the global market and more needs to be done. 

The targets for the Digital Decade are ambitious and the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine and the growing energy crisis will only make them harder to achieve. The plans cover four ‘cardinal points’ on a digital compass to show the path towards achieving its Digital Decade goals: develop secure and sustainable digital infrastructures, establish digitalisation of public services, digital transformation of businesses and growth in digital skills. The last of these points, ‘skills’, is critical and underpins the others – without sufficient people who have the right skills, it will be all but impossible to build the necessary infrastructure or change how organisations operate. 

But, there is a problem in terms of skills – a Europe-wide shortage of developers, testers and cyber security professionals. The experience of the Head of Software Development, Istvan Hilgert at Swedish company Accedo, is typical, ‘In the past 6 months, I’d say the situation has turned quite dramatic. I might even say, tragic. It’s getting harder and harder to find highly qualified developers with experience.’

The number of hard-to-fill vacancies has been on the rise and rising global demand for tech-oriented skills will only make the demand for such people greater. So how will the Digital Decade be supported? Where will the people with the technical skills and experience to realise the digital transformation of Europe come from? 

One of the goals of the Digital Decade programme is to employ 20 million ICT specialists by 2030, equally split between men and women. This is the kind of growth that will be needed and the proposal from Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) to make 2023 the “European Year of Skills” in her 2022 State of the Union address might help to inject momentum into the Digital Decade. However, as von der Leyen said in her address, unemployment is at a record low, while job vacancies are at a record high. More people need to develop IT skills to make this all work. 

A common solution to answer shortfalls in resources, particularly IT, has been to outsource the work and destinations. The Indian subcontinent, for example, has been a popular outsourcing location for US and UK companies and perhaps to a lesser extent, for continental Europe. However, sending work to far-flung places outside of the region would seem to fly in the face of both the spirit and the goals of the Digital Decade when there is ample ‘raw material’ available much closer to home, within the European region, to satisfy its IT needs.

The ‘raw material’ that can drive the Digital Decade will come from Central Europe – these countries are already showing a rapid growth in digital capability and still have a great deal of growth in that arena ahead of them. These digital challenger economies, as McKinsey calls them, have demonstrated strong growth in the value of the IT sector within their economies, comparable to that of more mature digital markets such as the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands. What is more, that growth has come at a time when the proportion of their population engaged in IT still lags well behind those countries – clearly, there is room for growth in the central European IT sector.

Is Central European IT sector growth sustainable; will the underlying drivers continue to fuel that growth during the Digital Decade? We believe the answer is an emphatic yes. Some commentators suggest that because Central (and Eastern) European countries emerged from a rigid, soviet system, this actually fostered innovation as people developed a mindset of solving problems in different ways – to get around the rigidity of the system. If such a post-soviet innovation boom was a factor, it might only be a one-off effect rather than something endemic in the mindset of the populace. Instead, more mundane considerations are and continue to sustain IT sector growth: population, language skills and the availability of effective IT training.

The population in Central and Eastern Europe tends to be younger than the rest of the region and the cost of living is typically much lower than in western and northern Europe. This sets the stage for creating a relatively large body of young, motivated people for whom securing well-paid careers in fields such as IT can make a large difference to their economic well being and lifestyle.

English is effectively the lingua franca of the science, technology and IT fields and being able to communicate in English certainly makes IT professionals more marketable. Within central and eastern Europe English language skills amongst IT professionals are particularly strong: in Poland, for example, 90% of software developers have an intermediate or higher level of English proficiency

Training will be a critical element in achieving the ‘skills’ component of the digital compass and the people who will drive the Digital Decade need training in order to deliver the EU’s ambition. Although there is ample provision of training for hard technical IT skills such as programming across Europe, there is relatively poor availability of IT training that also delivers the softer skills that help make individuals successful in the workplace

These softer skills, such as effective collaboration, time management and good communication skills, allied with strong technical skills are, according to the World Economic Forum, the kinds of skills that are and will be in demand for years to come. In central Europe, innovative approaches to developing IT skills that bake soft skills training into the process of becoming an IT professional will help make its people part of the engine that drives the Digital Decade. 

Despite a troubled outlook for Europe’s economy, the Digital Decade promises to be an interesting time and, with the skills and knowledge of central Europe’s digital professionals, it may just succeed.

About Codecool and Software Development Academy

Software Development Academy CEOsCodecool and Software Development Academy (SDA) recently merged to become a European digital skilling and sourcing powerhouse. With a presence in eight countries, the new organisation is on target to train 15,000 – 20,000 people annually in IT skills and work with 400+ corporate partners to provide workforces trained in the most popular technology subjects, from coding, and security to the Internet of Things and more.


  1. Path to the Digital Decade, Eur-Lex
  2. Securing Europe’s competitiveness: Addressing its technology gap, McKinsey
  3.  Digital targets for 2030, EC
  4. Accedo, Head of Software Development, Istvan Hilgert, Codecool
  5. ICT specialists – hard to fill vacancies, Eurostat
  6. The Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum
  7.  2022 State of the Union Address by President von der Leyen, EU
  8.  The rise of Digital Challengers, McKinsey
  9. ICT specialists in employment, Eurostat
  10.  How did Central and eastern Europe become a tech hotbed?, Investment Monitor
  11.  Ageing Europe – statistics on population developments, Eurostat
  12.  Software companies in Poland: 2022 outsourcing guide for CTOs
  13. Needs Analysis Draft Report I Europe’s Most Needed Software Roles and Skills, ESSA
  14. The Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum


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