Is Croatia a Digital Nation Yet? Not Quite

Lauren Simmonds

croatia digital nation

December the 7th, 2023 – The best economies on the planet at the moment belong to digital nations. Croatia has come very far in a relatively short time, but can it call itself a digital nation yet?

As Jutarnji/Novac writes, the findings of this year’s IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking (WDCR) provide us with a clearer insight into how different countries are approaching the digital transformation in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). In other words, we’re able to see what exactly is needed for nations to be able to call themselves truly digital. This is an increasingly important element at a time when the emergence of this technology is transforming society.

The top economies in this year’s ranking are those that can be considered “digital nations”, i.e. countries that enable the full adoption of digital technologies, including AI, by governments, companies and individuals.

“Although we don’t measure any particularly specific indicators of artificial intelligence, this technology is at the centre of several sub-factors that we do evaluate: talent, regulatory and technological frameworks, adaptive attitudes and business agility. At the level of the data itself, the quality of digital regulation, the available financing for technology development and the degree of agility boasted by companies, these are all data points that are included in artificial intelligence,” explained Professor Arturo Bris, the director of IMD’s World Competitiveness Centre.

Artificial intelligence technology and national security concerns are at the very heart of another significant trend observed in the rankings: the growing focus on cybersecurity. Of the 4,000 senior executives worldwide who responded to the WDCR survey, only 5% said they hadn’t yet implemented any new cybersecurity measures in the past year.

“Cybersecurity is becoming a clear example of the need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of AI and take a very, very careful approach to its optimal use. Countries cannot do this in isolation. They must rely on regional and even global institutions to do this for them,” stated Bris.

America comes out on top – again

After falling to second place last year for the first time since the WDCR began in 2017, the United States returned to first place this year with strong results in all three factors: knowledge, technology and readiness for future challenges. The Netherlands moved up four places to take second place, followed closely by Singapore, which rather unsurprisingly took first place in the technology factor.

The overall leader of the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2022, Denmark, fell to fourth place, mainly due to a decline in readiness for future challenges and technological factors. Switzerland, the first-ranked economy in the knowledge factor, has maintained its position and rounds out the top 5 first-ranked.

Is Croatia any closer to being able to call itself a digital nation? Not really

This year, Croatia fell by one place on the World Ranking of Digital Competitiveness and now ranks 44th out of a total of 64 observed economies. At the same time, as in the previous year, it was rated as 40th in the knowledge factor, 42nd in the technology factor, as well as last year, 50th in terms of readiness for future challenges, which represents a drop of two places compared to last year.

Within the knowledge factor, the criterion of the share of female researchers was particularly well evaluated, where Croatia ranks 9th, while on the other hand, a lack of international experience is perceived, where Croatia ranks 59th. An enormous disparity between the two, to say the least.

A terrible ranking when it comes to one factor, and an excellent one in another…

When it comes to technology factors, Croatia is ranked the worst, in an extremely unimpressive 61st place. This was in terms of technology development and application, while it is in an excellent 6th place in terms of investments in telecommunications.

Croatia, as paradoxical as ever, has continued to record the worst results in the segment of readiness for future challenges, sitting right at the bottom of the scale. In the segment of public-private partnerships, it came in 61st place, in terms of attitudes towards globalisation, it sits in 59th place, and in knowledge transfer – Croatia took 58th place.

All of this data, when combined, led to a drop in Croatia’s position from 43rd to 44th place in the World Ranking of Digital Competitiveness for 2023.

Croatia needs to get its thinking cap on – and fast

“This year’s drop by one place on the IMD World Ranking of Digital Competitiveness encourages us to think more deeply about the strategies we need to implement in order to improve our digital ecosystem, encourage innovation and strengthen this country’s competitive positions. The further development of digital infrastructure, the stimulation of research and development in general, as well as in the field of artificial intelligence, are all things we need to look at more deeply. On top of that, the strengthening of digital entrepreneurship is imposed as an imperative.

In the conditions of constant geopolitical instability, and taking into account Croatia’s ongoing negative demographic trends, the intensification of cooperation between the academic community, the private sector and the Government is a necessary prerequisite for building a strong digital nation that will be able to adapt to rapid changes in the digital environment,” emphasised Dr. Ivan Mišetić, Acting President of the National Competitiveness Council.

Investors take analyses like this very seriously

“The IMD Report on Digital Competitiveness should be an important document of economic diplomacy, because we know that foreign investors, whether private or institutional, study such analyses in great detail before deciding where to invest.

Given that a significant number of indicators that are evaluated are under the authority of the government, and that we as HUP ICT have very clear policy recommendations based on direct experiences and we propose structured improvements for the growth of digital competitiveness, I hope that positive developments will be seen next year as a result of the steps already taken. In 2024, I hope we’ll work much more intensively on the implementation of the Digital Croatia Strategy 2032 . I also hope we’ll work on the implementation of an action plan to properly address a lot of the topics from the IMD sub-field of knowledge, technology and future readiness,” said Hrvoje Josip Balen, president of the HUP-ICT Association.


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