“All EU Member States have made progress in the area of digitalisation, but the overall picture across Member States is mixed, and despite some convergence, the gap between the EU’s frontrunners and those with the lowest DESI scores remains large. Despite these improvements, all Member States will need to make concerted efforts to meet the 2030 targets as set out in Europe’s Digital Decade,” the Commission said in a press release.
The DESI tracks member states’ progress in digital competitiveness, human capital, broadband connectivity, integration of digital technology, and digital public services.
The best performers are Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Croatia lags behind Slovenia, but is ahead of Italy, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria.
Although Croatia moved up to 20th place on connectivity, it still lags behind the EU average, with a score of 45.4 against 50.2. It scored best on integration of digital technology, ranking 13th with a score of 40 against the EU average of 37.6.
Croatia placed 16th on human capital, with a score of 46.7 against the EU average of 47.1. It performed worst on digital public services, ranking 24th with a score of 52 against the EU average of 68.1.
“While Croatia has good fast broadband coverage (86% national and 39% rural), its overall fixed broadband take-up is slightly below the EU average. One of the positive developments in connectivity is the assignment of harmonised spectrum for 5G in August 2021. This is a stepping stone for further acceleration of the digital transformation and is bringing benefits to both businesses and individuals,” the report said.
“The level of at least basic digital skills remains slightly low compared with the EU average. In contrast, for above basic digital skills, Croatia comes in above the EU average. Croatia is progressing its successful implementation of the e-Schools programme, with all Croatian schools (1,320) included in the second phase of the programme,” it added.
Croatian enterprises continued to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technologies, and there has been a sharp rise in popularity of e-invoices, with enterprises’ usage up from 12% in 2018 to 43% in 2020, following the amendment of the Public Procurement Act which made e-invoices mandatory for enterprises.
The report notes that the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development expects to finalise the 2021-2027 National Plan for the Digital Transformation of the Economy mid-2022. The 2021-2029 Smart Specialisation Strategy and the National Plan for the Development of Artificial Intelligence are also under development.
The Commission says that Croatia has taken several steps to provide more digital access to the public administration, for example through the eID notification platform for electronic payment of fees, and that the National Recovery and Resilience Plan lays out an ambitious roadmap, with reforms and investments touching on all dimensions of the Digital Economy and Society Index.
“While Croatia is making modest progress to reach the Gigabit Society objectives, significant improvements are still needed. High right-of way fees are an impediment to VHCN (very high capacity network) deployment. Efficient VHCN deployment could be further facilitated by absorption of EU funds, implementation of the connectivity toolbox and addressing the lack of coordination in permit granting between central and local government, in particular on permit granting and fees. The recent assignment of harmonised spectrum suitable for 5G usage is an important step towards digital transformation, enabling Croatia to take full advantage of a digitalised economy and society, both for households and businesses,” the report concluded.
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