Wednesday, 28 August 2019

ICT Expert Says Level of Internet Use in Croatia Not Worrying

ZAGREB, August 28, 2019 - ICT expert Marko Rakar says the data showing that more than one in five Croatians have never used the Internet are not especially worrying as it makes sense that there are people, notably older ones, without access to or the need for the Internet.

A recently published Zagreb Institute of Economics analysis and data of the European Commission's Digital Economy and Society Index show that 21% of Croatians have never used the Internet, whereas the EU average is 11%.

When it comes to the use of Internet services, Croatia is within the EU average. As many as 91% of Croatian Internet users read news online, as against 72% in the rest of the EU.

Sixty-two percent of people who do not use the Internet are older than 65 and 34% of those in the 55-64 age group have never used it.

Rakar says one of the reasons why the Internet is not used is the number of people who are older, have lower education and are poorer. The fact that Croatia has more smartphones than inhabitants suggests that a large number of people do not even realise they use the Internet, he adds, noting that anyone watching cable TV, for example, uses the Internet.

According to national statistical office (DZS) data from December 2018, 82% of households in Croatia have Internet access. Rakar says this means that practically everyone in Croatia has it, as those without it either have a smartphone, and therefore have unregistered Internet access, or can access it elsewhere.

He says there are rural areas and islands without or with poor Internet connection, but the state is investing in fixing that and subsidising the construction of telecommunication networks there.

A DZS survey shows that 57% of respondents who do not have an Internet connection cited no need to use the Internet, a considerable number cited too high service and equipment prices, insufficient knowledge about Internet use, concern for the protection of privacy, and available access at another location.

Rakar says Croatia should not be compared with Denmark, for example, where only 2% of inhabitants have never used the Internet, because of their different economies, histories and infrastructure.

Asked if there is a link between the digitisation of bureaucratic services which citizens use and the interest of the elderly in the Internet, he says there is.

"The digital services the state promotes are not digital services at all, just a bureaucratic service working on the screen. That's not the point of digitisation. A real digital society... looks at all the needs of citizens, businesses, the state and everything else and then does all the processes in the most simple and most automated way so they are available to everyone, and we are just not doing that."

Croatia is behind most EU member states in the digitisation of public services and surveys show that its business community uses the Internet less than the rest of the EU. Rakar says computer literacy in 2019 is essential for any competitiveness, not just the state and businesses, but individuals too.

"A person who hasn't mastered at least basic computer skills is cut off in the digital world. They can no longer communicate because everyone communicates via the Internet on social media and apps. Another problem is keeping informed, as they can no longer see what happens around them," Rakar says, adding that elementary computer skills are essential to any job in the 21st century.

More IT news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Gaming Companies Call for Reaching USA-Croatia Double Taxation Avoidance Deal

ZAGREB, August 21, 2019 - Computer gaming is the most propulsive segment of the IT industry worldwide, and this trend is present in Croatia, too, where local gaming companies export all their products, however the biggest challenge in doing business is the absence of a Croatia-USA double taxation avoidance agreement, which affects their revenues and negatively impacts their competitiveness, representatives of the Croatian exhibitors at the Gamescon fair in Cologne have said.

The fair in that German city is open to visitors from 21 to 24 August.

According to a press release from the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), Croatian exhibitors are participating in the fair for the sixth consecutive year.

A survey of Croatian creative and cultural industries, which was conducted by the Zagreb-based Institute of Economics, show that a score of Croatian gaming companies employ some 250 employees, and they export their products worldwide.

Gamepires/Pandora Studio executive Andrej Levenski was quoted as saying that companies specialised in the production of computer games practically export all what they produce.

This company has so far sold 1.5 million copies of its games. However, the biggest challenge affecting the financial results is that Croatia has no agreement with the USA on double taxation avoidance, according to Levenski.

More news about relations between Croatia and the USA can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 15 July 2019

HUP Calls for Defining ICT as Strategic Industry

ZAGREB, July 15, 2019 - The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Division of the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) says that ICT should be defined as a strategic industry and that specific incentive measures should be taken to retain its specialists in the country and boost the sector's competitiveness.

Presenting their demands to the government in the form of "five small measures" and an analysis of the ICT sector over the past ten years, the association's representatives told a press conference earlier this week that it was highly important for Croatia to keep its digital talent and professionals in the country in the next ten years.

HUP director-general Davor Majetić said that the global economy was digitised and that therefore the results and status of the ICT industry were even more important.

"What 20 years ago was computerisation, with only a few computers in companies, is now digitisation, and in order for it to become a reality, a strong ICT sector is needed. That's why this industry is also very important for all other sectors," Majetić said.

He said that in Croatia last year the ICT industry had started the largest number of companies, generated the highest revenues, created the greatest added value and paid the largest amount of taxes and contributions per employee into the state budget, slightly over 4,400 kuna (600 euro), while contributions from other industries ranged from 1,000 kuna (135 euro) to 2,500 kuna (337 euro) per employee.

He went on to say that last year ICT was the second largest exporter after the metal industry and the second largest employer after the food industry, and that in the last ten years it had observed the large increase in employment as personnel costs had risen by 70 percent, from 3.8 billion kuna (513 million euro) in 2008 to 6.5 billion kuna (878 million euro) in 2018.

The head of the HUP's ICT Division, Boris Drilo, presented growth estimates for the industry until 2025, according to which the ICT sector could have 55,000 employees by then, of whom 28,000 in computer programming, while revenues could reach 45 billion kuna (6 billion euro), of which 12 billion kuna (1.6 billion euro) or 23 percent would account for exports.

More IT news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Croatia Ranked 20th in EU on Digital Economy and Society Index

ZAGREB, June 12, 2019 - Croatia ranked 20th on the European Commission's 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), climbing two places, the Commission reported on Tuesday.

Since 2015, the Commission monitors the digital competitiveness of member states through DESI reports.

Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Great Britain and Luxembourg are the forerunners. Slovakia, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria were ranked below Croatia.

Croatia's score increased thanks to an improved performance in some of the DESI dimensions measured. Croatia performs well in fixed broadband coverage and improved 4G and NGA coverage, but still performs low in connectivity.

Croatia made progress on internet and digital public services use. Croats are among the EU’s keenest readers of online news, and Croatian businesses use social media, big data and e-commerce. Still, one fifth of Croatians are not yet online. Despite growing demand on the labour market, the supply of ICT specialists is below the EU average.

Among all DESI dimensions, Croatia ranks highest in human capital, with the highest share of ICT graduates.

The Commission's report notes that Croatia has no overreaching digital skills strategy but currently addresses the issue through various strategic documents. It is preparing the ‘National Development Strategy Croatia 2030, which will become the country’s main strategic document.

During the course of 2018 and 2019, Croatia has launched over 40 different digital projects that will further shape the digitisation of the Croatian public administration, the report says.

When it comes to connectivity, despite some progress Croatia, ranked second to last in the EU.

Fixed coverage, at 99.5%, is above the EU average of 97%. Mobile broadband take-up has improved slightly, but also remains below the EU average.

Croatia has improved its fast broadband (NGA) coverage to 83%, which is now the EU average level. On ultrafast (100 Mbps and above) broadband, Croatia is lagging behind significantly, with only 39%, compared with an EU average of 60%. The rate of fast broadband subscriptions increased markedly last year (up from 7% in 2017 to 19%), but remains very low.

The goals set for 2020 as regards NGA coverage are hard to achieve, despite the existence of two national EU-co-financed NGN schemes with a budget of 224.4 million euro (of which 209.2 million euro comes from the ERDF). Both programmes focus on areas where high-speed connectivity is neither available nor planned due to the lack of commercial interest. While the funding is available, the implementation of both programmes is seriously delayed and the milestones are being postponed, putting at risk the absorption of the available funds, the EC says in its report.

The first 5G commercial networks are expected to start operating in 2020.

In the human capital dimension, Croatia ranks 13th out of EU countries, slightly below the EU average. Increasing number of Croats are going online and digital skills oscillate around the EU averages. Croatian SMEs lack sufficient ICT specialists, since at least 57 % of those that needed such specialists in 2018 reported difficulties in filling vacancies. The number of ICT graduates continues to grow. Female ICT specialists represent a very small proportion of total female employment - only 0.9% of employed women.

As for the integration of digital technology within businesses, Croatia ranks 18th among EU countries.

As for digital public services, Croatia ranks 22nd, below the EU average. Croatia performs very well in e-prescriptions, and there is a high level of online interaction between public authorities and members of the public. 75% of online users actively embrace e-government services.

In 2018, Croatia performed better than in previous year as regards pre-filled forms. Furthermore, the availability of e-government services for business is on the rise. Croatia performs well the provision of e-health services and it ranks 10th in the EU as regards online users (22%). 97% of general practitioners use e-prescriptions and 51% of them exchange medical data, the report notes.

It also notes that Croatia has launched the development of an electronic process to link all the data of registering companies and start-ups by developing an electronic one-stop-shop through the e-citizen system. This platform offers services to SMEs, including an e-business service for accessing documents to do with taxation, health insurance or pension matters, while e-fees enable administrative fees and charges to be paid by electronic means. e-Citizen enables easier communication between members of the public and the public sector and makes public sector services more transparent.

In 2019 Croatia is launching the Shared Service Centre (SSC), the e-government cloud solution, to further speed up development of public digital services, the report notes.

More IT news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Tele2 Sells Its Croatian Business to United Group

ZAGREB, June 1, 2019 - Sweden's Tele2 AB has agreed to sell its Croatian business Tele2 Croatia to United Group, a leading telecoms and media provider in Southeast Europe, for 220 million euro, the telecom said on Friday.

The transaction provides an opportunity for the company to realize value from the successful development of the Croatian business and to further advance its strategy with a focus on the Baltic Sea region, the company said.

"We are proud of the business we have built in Croatia and especially its outstanding development in the last two years, driven by our talented employees and our valued customer base. We believe Tele2 Croatia will create even greater value for our customers going forward, as part of United Group’s family of telecom and media companies. For Tele2, this opportunity enables an increased focus on successfully executing our strategy in the remaining footprint. I would like to thank the Croatian team for their engagement and many contributions to Tele2 over the past 14 years," said And Tele2 President and CEO Anders Nilsson.

The transaction requires approval from relevant regulatory bodies including the Croatian Competition Agency. Closing is expected before the end of 2019.

In 2018, Tele2 Croatia generated revenue of 1.9 billion Swedish krona and reported an adjusted EBITDA, excluding IFRS 16, of 268 million krona. At the end of last year, it had 897,000 subscribers and 310 employees.

United Group is a leading connectivity and media provider in South East Europe. It has the broadest network coverage in the region with 3.82 million subscribers and offers both local and international content. United Group has operations in six countries, including Croatia, where it owns the Nova and N1 Tv stations, and employs around 4,400 employees. Its headquarter is situated in Amsterdam.

More news about IT industry in Croatia can be found in the Business section.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Huge Interest for High School Video Game Developer Studies

The Technical High School in Sisak has been under siege from parents of students finishing elementary schools in recent days. Calls are coming from all over Croatia, and the school estimates it could enrol at least five times as many students as it has positions available. The reason for all this interest in the newly-introduced studies programme – the video game developer, reports on May 16, 2019.

“One mother even had an idea of bringing her third-grade high school student and enrolling him in the first grade of our school. The interest is huge, but in the next school year, we can have just one class with 24 students. I believe that we will be able to attract the best students from our county, but also other parts of Croatia,” said the Sisak Technical High School principal Davor Malović.

Croatian vocational schools will not offer many new studies for the next year, which is why the technician for the video games development programme in Sisak has attracted a lot of attention. On the other hand, it raises the question of why such programmes are not found more often in Croatian schools.

“We would not have it if the county had not launched a wider project. As is well-known, we have become the regional centre of competence and have received substantial European funds. The money will be used to equip several classrooms for students who will later work in the gaming industry,” said the principal.

The classrooms for the implementation of the new programme will include a professional audio and video studio, a motion capture camera, top gaming computers, VR glasses and gaming chairs. While it is difficult to estimate how much it will ultimately cost to invest in equipment and teacher education, the amount will undoubtedly reach a few million kuna.

The curriculum for the new programme has been developed by experts from Simora, the Sisak-Moslavina County development agency, which also educates teachers. In the first grade, students will have courses in basic programming, computer basics, graphics in video games, and video game development, while in the second grade they will switch to subjects such as operating systems, basic electrical engineering, intro to computer networks, designing graphics elements and team collaboration.

In the last two years of education, they will learn advanced video game development techniques, 3D modelling, texturing and animation, videogames project development, digital logic objects, production of competitive video games, visual effects in video games and, finally, marketing and monetization of video games.

In total, in four years of schooling, the program will offer 20 subjects related to the gaming industry, divided into five modules.

After this programme, the school plans to introduce six more related courses, one of which is space technology.

Translated from (reported by Mirela Lilek).

More news about education in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Broadband Optical Network to be Introduced in Istria, Primorje-Gorski Kotar

ZAGREB, April 23, 2019 - Ericsson Nikola Tesla and Rune Crow have signed a contract for the implementation of broadband optical network access in rural areas of Istria County and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, Ericsson Nikola Tesla said on Tuesday.

The "Rural Network Project (RUNE) is the first and currently the only international project at the European level which connects the territory of several member countries by a unique cross-border optical network," the company said in a press release.

"With the construction of the network in rural areas which are currently not covered by optical infrastructure and where existing Internet service providers have no commercial interest, RUNE will help local authorities to achieve the goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe 2020.

Moreover, this will contribute to the liberalization of the electronic communication service market. In the end, this guarantees all operators an equal approach to end users under equal conditions."

The project is financed by the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund (CEBF), as the first investment platform for the support of broadband infrastructure within the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), the company said.

More IT industry news can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Studio from Zagreb Updates Official Game of Thrones App

Filming locations are not the only connection between the Game of Thrones and Croatia. The global television sensation, which is currently broadcasting its eighth and final season, has another Croatian “touch” – the Five agency from Zagreb is the author of the latest update of the official app accompanying the TV series, entitled A World of Ice and Fire - A Game of Thrones App, reports on April 22, 2019.

The update was developed for one of the world's largest publishing houses, Penguin Random House. The Five agency has been working together with the publisher for years, and the update has been offered on the internet, at AppStore and GooglePlay, a few days before the start of the latest TV season.

The app is free, and for the first time, the latest version of the app is also available in Croatia, which has caused considerable joy among the fans.

“We only started working on the app a few months before the broadcast, but we have made a lot of improvements and created a much better user experience, a brand new user interface, with an added support for tablets and new devices, and added more than a hundred optimizations and upgrades,” said Perica Levatić, a project manager in the agency which has an office in New York as well.

The latest upgrade of the official Games of Thrones app has been selected as the best app update by AppStore, which gave an additional boost to the Five team, since they are, of course, great GoT fans.

They have also made the job easier for Penguin Random House to manage the app in the future. “It will now be a lot easier to add new content through the new Content Management System (CMS). It is easier to manage content from the books, and the app lets you explore all GoT's worlds through interactive maps,” said the Five agency.

Translated from (reported by Sergej Novosel Vučković).

More news about links between Croatia and the Game of Thrones can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Microblink Launches Document Scanning App BlinkCard

Microblink, an R&D company from Zagreb, has developed the fastest mobile document scanner in the world, introducing a new product – BlinkCard. It is a scanner of credit and debit cards, which is sold as a software component for embedding into fintech mobile apps, which have become a hot topic in the last few months with the rise of mobile banking, reports on April 12, 2019.

Damir Sabol, the co-founder and co-owner of Microblink, said that BlinkCard is available as a test app for free at Google Play and Apple Store mobile app stores. He says BlinkCard is a sign of progress in the field of machine learning. "In the near future, we will be able to scan and recognise almost all personal documents in the world," says Sabol.

Microblink sells five software components that can be used to scan and instantly enter data from different documents, from invoices to official documents. The first product launched by the company was the BlinkID, a mobile document scanner with an extensive range of application. This product is used in the United States to scan US citizens’ identification documents at polling stations. US police also use it in several smaller towns to issue fines within three seconds.

In the United Kingdom, it is used by large insurers to enable their customers to arrange for the extension of the car insurance policies immediately via mobile phones by scanning driving licenses.

Damir Sabol says that the goal of their solutions is for users to be able to point the mobile phone cameras without any typing towards a document and gain data which can be entered into a form in less than a second. He adds that in the last six years the number of employees working on solving this problem has grown from seven to 90.

“Now we are working on the SecureVision project worth 7.9 million kuna, which we want to use to improve our technological solution further," Sabol explains.

Translated from (reported by Bernard Ivezić).

More IT industry news can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Junior Engineer Academy Links High Schools with Universities and Labour Market

The Junior Engineer Academy programme was presented today at the Zagreb Innovation Centre. This is a project developed in the collaboration of Deutsche Telekom Stiftung, the Institute for Youth Development and Innovativity (IRIM) and Croatian Telecom (HT), the leader of the STEM revolution in Croatia. A vital feature of the programme is to establish and maintain close links with companies and universities that provide students with an early insight into the world of engineering in all areas of technology and science, reports on March 26, 2019.

In the first phase of the project, the IRIM selected 15 vocational schools to participate in the project implementation, donated advanced technology and funds to schools, and provided mentors with training to enable them to transfer the knowledge to students and work with them in the process of converting creative ideas into solutions using the IoT technology.

The second phase involves connecting the selected schools with related educational institutions and the business sector. Throughout the process of creating solutions, the IRIM provides continuous mentoring by its experts. The ultimate goal is to establish permanent co-operation between the educational and business sectors, which will result in stronger and more productive links between educational institutions and the labour market.

One of the main goals of the activities of Croatian Telecom, including through the STEM literacy programmes, is to bring technology into every corner of Croatia and thus create equal opportunities for everyone, and education is the starting point for bringing about such changes in the society.

In partnership with the IRIM, Croatian Telecom has equipped 160 schools in the last two year, while about 130 mentors and more than 2000 students have attended educational programmes to be prepared for the future created by the technological revolution. Young creators are achieving significant successes in global competition in creating innovative IoT solutions. The latest such success is the achievement of Vukovar high-schoolers who won the first prize at the worldwide competition marking the anniversary of Arduino - the technology which Croatian Telecom offers to a growing number of schools in Croatia.

“Getting the STEM knowledge to everyone is essential for young people to learn how to use technology to find solutions. That is why, for the third year in a row, we have completely changed the approach to learning in schools, and we are the leader of the STEM revolution in Croatia. We are proud that young people today have the opportunity to implement their ideas using the latest technology. Successes such as the one achieved by the high-schoolers from Vukovar prove that we are moving in the right direction and encourage us to continue developing such programmes,” said the director of HT corporate communications Nina Išek Međugorac.

“We will not stop until all schools accept the challenge and become part of the HT educational programme because that is the only way to create generations that will lead our society forward. We want these creative individuals with the competences of the future to motivate the whole society to join the wave of change that will result in simpler and better lives," Išek Međugorac said.

"With this project, we want to expand IRIM activities and strengthen high schools by providing them with cutting-edge technology, financial donations and continuous support through professional mentoring. Through the establishment of the Junior Engineer Academy network in Croatia, we want to foster cooperation between the educational and business sectors as well as the development of competencies that will prepare the young for the future," said IRIM president Nenad Bakić.

More news about IRIM can be found in the Business section.

Translated from

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