The changes in the field of digitalisation are swift and the number of users of new technologies is growing rapidly, but these developments are not followed by equally swift responses in cultural policies. Croatia does not have an official strategic document for the development of digital transformation of the cultural and creative sectors and the official initiatives related to strategies and programmes for digitalisation were mainly focused on its technical aspects. However, digitalisation issues are regularly included in the strategic plans of the Ministry of Culture and Media, but in a fragmented manner focusing on specific cases in a particular period. For example, in the Strategic Plan for the period 2018-2020 (Ministry of Culture, 2017a), focus was placed on completing a national project for the digitalisation of independent cinemas (arthouse, small and regional cinemas) so as to enable easier and wider distribution of audio-visual content. This project has been finalised in cooperation with the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC), an arm’s length body dedicated for support and promotion of Croatian audio-visual sector. The Ministry of Culture co-financed 60% of the equipment cost in larger cities and 70% of the cost in smaller ones. The cinema owners and the local and city self-governments covered the remaining costs. This proved to be a good practice example on a European scale, with more than 100 cinema theatres that were digitised in Croatia by 2020. Within the book sector the National Reading Support Strategy 2017 – 2022 (Ministry of Culture, 2017b) was elaborated but e-books are only marginally mentioned. Legislative changes have been made with the updated laws on museums, libraries and archives that were adopted in 2018 and 2019. For the first time they mention the new digital context that affects the work of heritage institutions. Harmonisation of national legislation with EU Directives regarding copyright, as well as the audiovisual media services that have an impact on digital culture, has been made through the preparation of the draft of Law on Electronic Media in 2019 and draft Proposal of the Law on Copyright and related Rights in April 2020. However, although the Law on Electronic Media was put into the adoption procedure, the other law was not yet amended during the finalisation of this report.
In the area of cultural heritage, the first digitisation initiative that the (then) Ministry of Culture initiated was the Croatian Cultural Heritage Project (2007-2012). This was a national programme for digitisation of archival, library and museum materials which also contributed to the creation of a central platform for cultural heritage that was developed in 2008 (www.kultura.hr) and which was closed in 2011. The national aggregator for cultural heritage was launched only in 2014 with an aim to allow heritage institutions to send digital content to the Europeana platform. The Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media plays the role of coordinator for the national aggregator which presents an obstacle to the equal participation of Croatia in EU projects related to aggregation and withdrawal of EU funds. This results in a small number of institutions that have been using the national aggregator as shown by the analysis of the current state of digitisation of cultural heritage in the Republic of Croatia (Ernst & Young, 2018). This report was the basis for the preparation of the project ‘e-Culture – Digitalisation of cultural heritage’ that started in 2020. The project is an activity envisaged as a part of the draft National Plan for the Digitisation of Cultural Heritage 2025, prepared in 2019 by the Ministry of Culture that is presently in the adoption process. The funds for the implementation of the e-Culture project have been secured from both the European Fund for Regional Development (85%) and from the state budget (15%), in the total amount of 41 994 473 HRK (approx. 5 599 263 EUR). Partner organisations in the project are the Croatian State Archives, the National and University Library, the Museum for Arts and Crafts and Croatian Radio Television.
ICT use is increasing in particular in the cultural industries, such as the audio-visual industry (gaming industry in particular) but also in librarianship and archives and other cultural sectors. However, support for the digitalisation in cultural institutions is not adequate and is hindering further development. In the 2019 Call for support for the digitalisation of museum, library and archival programmes, seventy-six programmes were submitted, while 45 programmes were approved in the total amount of 655 743 HRK (87 432 EUR). Priority was given to programmes that are economical and/or that had secured support from other sources (either on the regional or local level, from sponsors, foreign organisations etc.). A number of institutions are working in parallel on different digitalisation projects; in order to bridge these problems. Since 2010, the National and University Library in Zagreb organises yearly ‘The Festival of Digitalisation Projects’. It gathers experts in the field of development and management of digital collections, building up the systems of digital libraries, digitalisation of different types of data and usage and promotion of digital cultural and scientific heritage. The Kultura nova Foundation also offers support for the digitalisation of the archives of civil society organisations in contemporary arts and culture in order to preserve the records of the work of these active but fragile organisations. The Croatian Audiovisual Centre also offers support for digitalisation of selected audiovisual works through its public call for complimentary activities. However, the burning issue of a decaying audiovisual heritage and the lack of an adequate strategy for its digitalisation, which is connected to the yet unresolved position of Croatian Cinemateque and the status of authors’ rights for films produced in the Yugoslav period, remains an open but urgent problem for the audiovisual community.
With the creation of the Cultural Council for New Media Cultures in 2004, the financing of artists working with new technologies became more transparent and they gained easier access to public funds. In 2013 the Council for New Media Cultures changed its responsibilities to the Council for Innovative Cultural and Artistic Practices that assesses the applications for public needs in culture in this area. In 2020, as a result of the needs of the sector due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Culture and Media also opened a call for digital adaptation of the existing cultural programmes and the creation of new cultural and educational content for the digital sphere.
ICT companies are giving support to cultural activities through sponsorships and donations that are mainly in-kind. However, neither side is doing this according to any government programme, but according to available regulations concerning taxes on sponsorship and donations and on a case-by-case basis.