Cybersecurity includes activities focused on protecting computers, networks, software, and data from unauthorized or unintended access. Cybersecurity preserves the availability and integrity of information and communication networks and infrastructure.
By 2020, buyers will spend EUR 582 billion on cybersecurity. Of this total, buyers will spend EUR 343 billion on securing PCs, EUR 153 billion on securing “internet of things” (IoT) devices, and EUR 100 billion on securing mobile devices.
The Croatian IT sector had more than EUR 1.9 billion turnover in 2016. Some 3,800 companies are in the Croatian IT sector. They employ over 19,500 people.
The IT sector is one of the main drivers of economic and social development in Croatia. IT firms achieved impressive growth in employees, exports, and revenues between 2011 and 2016 compared with other industries in Croatia.
Emerging Strategic segments
Cybersecurity firms supply three major types of services:
- Monitored security services—supplying outsourced cybersecurity services. Examples include security audits, digital forensics, round-the-clock monitoring and management of intrusion detection systems and firewalls, training services, and response and remediation services.
- Off-the-shelf integration services—selling and integrating third-party solutions with little or no innovative components or development. Examples include installing antivirus programs, setting up backup systems, configuring firewalls, and selling disaster recovery tools.
- Solutions development services—creating newly-developed products or services with innovative components. The term “solutions” here refers to either products or services—or any combination of them—that solve cybersecurity problems. Firms patent and protect their novel solutions, raising barriers to entry.
There are three main markets for cybersecurity solutions:
- The military market. We do not address this market as per World Bank policy.
- The unregulated civilian market refers to individuals and unregulated corporate sector purchasers that require cybersecurity solutions and products.
- The regulated civilian market refers to advanced buyers of cybersecurity solutions and products that come from highly regulated corporate or public sectors. In these industries, regulatory requirements are continually evolving.
“Regulated civilian solutions”
The “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segment is especially attractive for Croatia. The “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segment is the supply of solutions development services to the regulated civilian market. It, therefore, combines the desirable attributes of selling solutions development services (high barriers to entry) with those of the regulated civilian market (advanced purchasers willing to spend).
The “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segment has several important characteristics:
- Purchasing criteria are complex. Buyers in the “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segment are looking for high-quality solutions customized to their specific needs.
- Purchasers are sophisticated. Buyers in the “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segment have advanced needs. They may need to manage sensitive data (financial and health care), run critical infrastructure (energy, utilities, and telecommunications), or protect lives (automotive and airspace). Buyers in this strategic segment are very aware of security needs and are the largest purchasers of cybersecurity products overall.
- Purchasers will pay to decrease risk. Willingness to pay for cybersecurity solutions derives from the economic incentive to minimize duration and errors in regulatory compliance processes to reduce the risk of sanctions. Purchasers in the “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segment also want to minimize reputational risks that might result from security breaches.
Making Croatia Competitive
Where is the value chain weak?
Croatian companies’ ability to thrive in the emerging “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segment depends on their ability to evolve their offerings to meet buyers’ demands. Croatia lags in several areas along the value chain:
- Most Croatian cybersecurity companies are system integrators. They sell and integrate imported pre-made products and solutions made by international companies such as Cisco, Symantec, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle.
- Croatian companies dealing with cybersecurity are scarce. Only a few have research and development (R&D) capacities to develop their own products.
- Many firms rely on sales to the public sector. They depend on competitive bidding processes. Doing so puts downward pressures on margins.
- Firms struggle with retaining top talent. Some of the best professionals are migrating to countries offering better pay and working conditions.
- Research, development, and innovation are unsatisfactory. Croatia’s IT firms lack substantial R&D and innovation activities. Croatia, with 3.2 of European patent applications per million inhabitants, was only 41 out of the 48 ranked countries in 2016.
- Capacity in both certification and accreditation bodies needs improvement. Because buyers in the “regulated citizen solutions” strategic segment are subject to regulation, certification and supervising authorities play important roles.
Areas for reform
Certain aspects of the industry ecosystem limit Croatia’s competitiveness in the emerging “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segments.
Demand in Croatia for high-complexity customized cybersecurity solutions is low. However, due to existing and incoming regulation, and rising awareness among buyers, domestic demand is expected to increase substantially.
Exports are low compared to international competitors. Croatia needs more focused export strategies. Export opportunities for Croatian companies are in neighboring countries, the western EU countries, and the United States.
Technology infrastructure is below par. In 2017, Croatia ranked 24 out of the 28 EU member states in terms of progress toward societal digitization.
Labor productivity is low. From 2000 to 2014, productivity increased by only 20 percent while real wages increased by over 70 percent. The fact that wage increases are outpacing productivity growth gives cause for concern over the long-term cost-competitiveness of the Croatian workforce.
Finding and retaining top talent is difficult. Croatia does not have enough educated, highly skilled workers. In 2016, only 2.7 percent of the workforce in Croatia were information and communications technology (ICT) specialists. Additionally, good software and systems engineers can move to other companies abroad for much higher net wages.
Access to finance is limited. Financial institutions do not offer the capital for R&D investment that firms in this segment need. There is no smart venture capital that could guide young entrepreneurs and open new markets for more mature companies.
Vocational education and training could be better targeted. Comprehensive, specialized courses and programs in cybersecurity are lacking.
Croatia’s innovation capacity is limited. The Croatian innovation system is inefficient, complex, and fragmented.
Strategy, structure, and rivalry
Croatian cybersecurity companies have limited negotiating power. Croatia’s cybersecurity firms are generally small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Because their buyers are larger corporations and the public sector, they have limited negotiating power.
Croatian IT companies face fierce global competition. Eastern European countries have lower prices and larger volumes.
Related and supporting industries
There is no systematic cooperation on specific projects between the private sector and academia. Private contacts and individual efforts are behind most collaboration today.
Scientific research in Croatia does not follow the needs of the business sector. Firms need to collaborate more with research agents and other stakeholders. Additionally, firms do not have access to the research infrastructure, and research is not translated into products.
Collaboration between companies working in the IT sector is low. Firms from the cluster need to improve cooperation and exchange of valuable information about everyday business operations (especially export activities). Several associations represent the industry’s interests. However, their efforts are uncoordinated and passive.
Croatia lacks a systematic innovation policy. Policymakers have failed to direct available financing to innovation aimed at commercialization.
Croatia taxes skilled labor unfavorably. Croatia has higher taxes for skilled labor than other countries in Central and Eastern Europe (for example, Romania or Bulgaria). Many additional costs (such as taxation of travel expenses for longer-term assignments and taxation of daily rates over a certain threshold) also make labor more expensive for Croatian companies.
Croatians are subject to double taxation. Croatia is the only EU and NATO member that still has not signed a Double Taxation Treaty (DTT) with the United States, the largest global market for cybersecurity products. Croatia has also not signed DTTs with many other developed countries and economies. Croatian companies are at a competitive disadvantage compared to competitors from countries that have signed such treaties.
Croatia lacks specific incentives for R&D or exports of software products. Croatia faces stiff competition from other countries that strategically support the cybersecurity industry. Most neighboring countries offer incentives for creating and growing local IT companies. There are no such incentives in Croatia.
Croatia could improve its position in the emerging “regulated civilian solutions” strategic segment by:
- Creating a cybersecurity ‘Digital Innovation Hub’ (DIH). Setting up a DIH for cybersecurity in Croatia could provide a leg up for an industry at the leading edge of disruptive change. The Ministry of Economy Entrepreneurship and Crafts (MoEEC), the Ministry of Science and Education, the Ministry of Labor and Pension Systems, and other line ministries could implement this recommendation (via a ‘level 2’ fiduciary implementing body). Estimated timeframe: 10 years.
- Making technology scouting for cybersecurity available. Technology scouting would identify the best technology providers globally. MoEEC could implement this recommendation (through a technical assistance program) as a matching grants scheme. Estimated timeframe: 3 years.
- Providing training. The training would cover cutting-edge technologies, products, and services developed elsewhere. MoEEC could contract this program to relevant government agencies as a technical assistance program. Estimated timeframe: Includes short- (1 year) and long-term (10 year) programs.
- Providing business mentoring. The mentoring would cover product innovation, opportunity recognition, risk perception, education of entrepreneurs, and networking for entrepreneurs. MoEEC (through EBRD) or the Croatian Chamber of Economy could implement the mentoring program (through a technical assistance program) as a matching grants scheme. Estimated timeframe: 2 years.
- Improving the business environment. Croatia’s business environment can be enhanced to encourage Croatian companies to transition toward new attractive opportunities in the cybersecurity sector. There are three top priorities. The first is facilitating mobility between academia and the private and public sectors. The second is reducing business environment constraints on IT and cybersecurity firms, particularly by signing treaties to prevent double taxation. The third is paying special attention to cybersecurity as a priority segment for investment promotion and policy efforts. MoEEC and other relevant agencies could implement these regulatory reforms through public institutions and government agencies. Estimated timeframe: 3 years.