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Release of e-Bulgaria Report 2004
ARC Fund has released its latest e-Bulgaria Report 2004. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the country’s state of preparedness for the Information Society (e-readiness) over the period 2002-2004. It traces the progress in ICT infrastructure deployment and the availability and use of Internet and ICT-related services in Bulgarian society, economy, government and education.

The official launch of the e-Bulgaria Report 2004 took place on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 at the Information Society Promotion Office – a joint initiative of ARC Fund and the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The ceremony was attended by Mr. Alexander Ognianov, Director, IST Directorate at the Ministry of Transport and Communications; Mr. Nikolay Kamov, MP; Mr. Orlin Kouzov, CEO, ICT Development Agency; Mr. Georgi Vulchev, Director, Coordination Center on ICT with the Council of Ministers, and other government officials, ICT industry leaders, foreign diplomats and journalists.

Mr. Ognianov of MTC (on the photo) welcomed the release of the report which, in his view, presents a more realistic picture of the ICT situation in the country than many of the internationally published figures. The report provides a lot of useful data which MTC will use in monitoring Bulgaria’s progress towards the strategic targets set by the European Commission in its e-Europe 2005 Action Plan. Mr. Ognianov stressed that many concerted efforts are needed for Bulgaria to change its current positioning as “laggard” among the new EU member states and candidate countries (followed only by Romania), as shown by the latest e-Europe+ benchmarking report.

Mr. Kamov (on the photo, left), MP of the opposition socialist party also commended the report and expressed his discontent with the lack of political will among the members of the Bulgarian parliament to push forward the e-government agenda. He also talked about the need for policy decisions that would not only help Bulgaria reach the level of the Central and East European democracies in terms of ICT development, but would enable the country to truly leapfrog into the “networked society” and not fall into the backyard of “e-Europe”.

The main findings of the e-Bulgaria report were presented by Mr. Todor Yalamov, Coordinator of ARC Fund’s IT Group. He pointed out e-business as the fastest growing domain of all five categories covered by the e-Bulgaria Index. The positive developments in the field of e-business are mainly due to higher Internet usage by business organizations, greater inter-connectedness of computers used in business, and development of more and better corporate websites. The share of firms with own websites has grown from 5% in 2001 to 16% in 2004, and more than half of the companies using computers have connected them into networks.

The e-Bulgaria analysis shows e-education as a laggard among the other categories of e-readiness. E-education has lost its leading position since 2001, mainly due to the slow computerization of the schools and the lack of teacher skills in using ICT for education purposes. The lack of ICT skills is particular acute among teachers of non-mathematical subjects. The analysis has found that in more than 60% of the surveyed secondary schools there is not a single non-math teacher using Internet or IT for instruction. Just 4% of the schools have official websites and less than a fifth of them have official email addresses for contacts.

While the country’s ICT infrastructure is relatively well-developed – with a growing number of specific broadband connections limited to nationally hosted content, affordable Internet and increasing VoIP usage – there are significant divides within the society. A major drawback to further e-developments is seen in the relatively low level of PC penetration in households (only 7.2%). E-government might be a serious multiplier in information society development, yet the report shows a rather weak political commitment to implement e-government services in Bulgaria, disturbing inefficiencies in IT procurement, which amounts to nearly half of the national IT spending, and little horizontal coordination among the various government agencies.

The e-Bulgaria report is primarily targeted at Bulgarian government institutions and other key stakeholders in the private sector, ICT industry, NGOs and academia. It is also of interest to international donors and investors who are monitoring Bulgaria’s ICT developments.

The report is published with the financial support of the ICT Development Agency and Bulgaria Development Gateway. It is a continuation of an earlier e-readiness assessment completed in 2002. The pilot study was carried out under a World Bank / infoDev project.

Download the full e-Bulgaria Report 2004 (pdf, 3.56 MB)
Press release (available only in Bulgarian)
Media coverage (available only in Bulgarian)

Read also Bulgaria: ICT Infrastructure and E-Readiness Assessment, 2002 (pdf, 600 KB)
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