Bulgaria

Interview with Kamen Boyanov Spassov

“E- content catalyzes globalization and has the potential to transform information society into a knowledge society”

How would you define e-content in Bulgaria?

E-content is any content that is developed to be used, distributed and viewed and heard electronically. Content means text, movies, drawings, maps, software, music, speech, sounds, visual arts, games, and so on. Electronically means using any kind of computers, PDAs, digital phones, MP3 players, TV, radio, GPS, and similar devices.

We live in the information age. We have open communication channels to access information quickly. The cost of acquiring or distributing information/e-content is relatively low. As a result e-content catalyzes globalization and has the potential to transform information society into a knowledge society.

“With democratic society maturing in recent years, the country has opened up and liberalized its economy”

What’s the status of e-content in Bulgaria?

If we can categorize software as e-content, the best-developed e-content in Bulgaria is software. The reason is purely economic. In comparison to other types of e-content, software is more profitable and we have accumulated more than 25 years of experience. The specifics of Bulgarian law make it difficult to use out of the box products. On the other hand the limited buying power of the local companies makes them prefer local solutions or in-house software development over big brands.

Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in Bulgaria?

With democratic society maturing in recent years, the country has opened up and liberalized its economy. This has created an opportunity for further development of software services. Internet and WWW has influenced the development of e-business, e-entertainment and e-culture. The commitment of Bulgarian society to join the European Union gave a fillip to the development of e-government solutions.

Which sector (business, private sector, government or civil society) in Bulgaria is advance in developing e-content?

The private sector is the engine of e-content development in Bulgaria. Individuals and NGOs also contribute to e-content creation and distribution. The expansion of e-government will also strengthen the process.

How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in Bulgaria?

The question here is how to measure progress. With the growth of Internet penetration and improvement of economic environment, e-content will grow. In my estimate, there will be a double-digit growth rate in the next 10 years. Why?

What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in Bulgaria?

Bulgaria is working towards inclusion in the European Union (EU) by 2007. Development of e-government is just one of the requirements to join EU. Bulgaria joined the e-content program of the EU this year. I see this as an opportunity for intensive e-content development in the next five years. By 2005, Bulgaria will provide 20 indicative services to citizens and businesses electronically. By that time many other administrative services will also be available online to the public. The total number of administrative services is about 2000 and this means a lot of opportunities for progress.

Bahrain has very sophisticated ICT infrastructure and is well connectd through telecommunication

The liberalization of the telecommunication sector in Bulgaria started in 2004. Alternative operators have entered the market and made broadband service available. More and more people every day have high speed access to Internet and this is creating more demand for e-content. The broadband will serve as an additional channel for worldwide distribution of local e-content.

E-content for mobile phones will grow explosively in the next few years. GPRS will become available for most users of GSM mobile telephony. A mobile phone company plans to implement CDMA technology as well.

In 2004 first licenses for digital TV were expected to be granted. By year 2005 digital TV will be a reality in Bulgaria. This will be another avenue for distribution and a reason for development of e-content in the years to come.

What are the major bottlenecks in the path of e-content development in Bulgaria?

Return on investment (ROI) in e-content is low in most cases. Joining the EU e-content program would attract funding.

In most countries, especially developing, e-content development is significantly dependent on ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities. But, in some, ICT has become pervasive and e-content development is primarily subjected to the initiatives of an individual/organization/government, etc. What is the situation in Bulgaria?

ICT infrastructure influences e-content development. Broadband, digital TV, 2.5 and 3rd generation mobile networks and all kinds of “intelligent” electronic devices – mobile phones, digital cameras, PDAs, etc. create opportunities to enrich e-content. High Internet penetration, coupled with powerful computers, broadband and smart devices will stimulate the demand for eContent. Currently, in Bulgaria, the supply is the driving force – companies, NGOs, professionals, amateurs, geeks create e-content but this e-content in most cases is not commercialized and at times targets specific audiences/user groups.

” Currently, in Bulgaria, the supply is the driving force – companies, NGOs, profesionals, amaterus, geeks creat e-content but this e-content in most cases is not commercialized and at times targets specific audiences/user groups”

The state owned Bulgarian telecommunication company is a monopoly that has no interest in broadband development. It provides dial-up access leveraging its fixed line network at constantly rising prices. Users are looking for alternative solutions. Independent cable companies are focused mainly on TV programmes and less on providing Internet access to households. Mobile phone operators provide slow and expensive Internet access, excluding SMS. Some companies experiment with Wi Fi; others build LANs to provide Internet access. Most of the traffic goes through the state-owned telecommunication company. Low speed and high Internet charges are not conducive to e-content development. Availability of CDs, DVDs and reasonably priced CD players, high volume HDDs and memory sticks will positively influence e-content development and distribution.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in Bulgaria in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?

ICT companies in Bulgaria have developed a strategy for seeking support of the government. The law of electronic signature and document was passed in the Parliament. Changes in the intellectual property law protect the rights of the software companies. The e-government strategy was adopted by the Council of Ministers. E-Trading law is being developed. State administration is gradually giving priority to the information and communication technologies.

What’s the future of e-content in Bulgaria?

In the next few years most of the e-content will be created for users outside Bulgaria. With the increase of Internet penetration and Broadband access, the demand for e-content for local use will grow. Because e-government is a priority through 2007, related e-content development will have a stable growth rate. New channels (GPRS, 3G, and Digital TV) and new devices will open new avenues for creation of relevant e-content. The more affordable the use, the more e-content creation. The Bulgarian participation in EU e-Content program will accelerate e-content development.

Which is the most preferred medium for e-content production in Bulgaria?

The most preferred medium for e-content development is the personal computer usually linked in a network, followed by the Internet and the World Wide Web.

How do you recognize and appreciate e-content producers and best practices in Bulgaria?

Local and international competitions and forums create an environment in which Bulgarian e-content creators work to prove their ideas and gain recognition in several events like:

– World Summit Awards
– eEurope Awards
– Bulgarian On-line services Awards
– Best Bulgarian Web Site of the year
– Computer Space competition.

I would specifically discuss my experience with the selection of best practices for World Summit Award. The selection procedure was open. I asked leading journalists from IT media, IT professional organizations and other experts to nominate products for WSA. After nominations, I went through the products and selected the ones that were innovative and capable of producing an impact — products that had earned the support of organizations and individuals who were willing to contribute to change. Also, products that were submitted from more than one organization or expert had advantages. I was looking for original ideas and content in relation to the needs of our country.

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