Internet Services

16 April 2013
Internet Services

In 2011 46% of the population use the internet regularly (eg at least once a week), up 4 p.p. since 2010, but 22 p.p. below the EU average of 68%. With regards to disadvantaged people, the rate was 27%, 26 p.p. below the EU average of 53%. 46% of citizens have never used the internet, a reduction of 5 p.p. since 2010. Take-up of eCommerce is below EU average (43%), with only 7% of the population buying online, up 2 p.p. since 2010. 6.1% of businesses purchased online, and 3.2% sold online, while 3.1% of SMEs sold online eGovernment usage by citizens in 2011 is the third lowest in the EU27 at 25% with a slight increase from 2010 (at 24%). Usage by businesses in 2011 is slightly better placed with 79%, although slightly below the EU27 average.

Internet usage

Bulgaria lies at the bottom of the ranking in terms of regular and frequent users of the internet, along with Greece and Romania. Only 46% of the population are regular users, i.e. using the internet at least once a week, up from 42% in 2010 and well below the EU average of 68%. In addition, frequent users, i.e. using the internet on a daily basis account for 37% of the population up from 33% in 2010 but below the EU average of 56%. About 1 out of 2 Bulgarians has never used the internet, since non-users accounted for 46% in 2011, down from 51% in 2010 but well above the EU average of 24%. Finally, with regards to disadvantaged people, the rate of regular internet usage in 2011 was 27%, 24 pp. below the EU average of 51%.

Bulgarians are using the internet to perform various activities. Bulgaria is one of the countries with high proportion of internet users engaging in social networks, since 30% of the population are participating to social networks, though below the EU average by 8 pp. Between 25% and 30% are using the internet to read online newspapers, to discover information about goods and services and to make telephone or video calls. On the other hand, although 1 out of 10 Bulgarians have read and posted opinions on civic or political issues via websites during the last 3 months, only 3% have taken part in on-line consultations or voted to define civic or political issues (e.g. urban planning, signing a petition), compared to the EU average of 7%. This is probably attributed to the fact that in Bulgaria the opportunity to participate and vote for civic and political issues is provided with traditional manners rather than through the internet. Contrary to, other countries, such as Belgium, internet banking is not that popular (3%), arguably because of security concerns or lack of skills.

Digital Competence/ICT skills

In terms of operational computer and internet skills, Bulgaria is a low performer in comparison to the EU average. Only 42% of citizens in Bulgaria have some level of computer skills. 50% have internet skills. Again these rates are well below the averages for the EU of 67% and 73%, respectively. Moreover, weighed against leading countries, such as the Nordic countries, Bulgaria is well below in terms of rates of people with high digital skills. This is no surprise, given that computer and internet usage goes hand in hand with levels of digital literacy in a given country. Data for 2011 demonstrate that 11% of the all individuals have high computer skills up from 7% in 2009 and far below the EU average of 27%. The rate of people with high internet skills at 9% is virtually unchanged over 2010 and remains lower than the EU average of 11%.

In general, in Bulgaria most computer and internet users appear to have either no skills or low or medium skills, with 14% and 19% of them having low computer and internet skills respectively in 2011. The respective EU averages are 14% and 30%. These rates have not changed significantly since 2009 and 2010. The rate of low computer skilled has increased by 3 p.p. and the rate of low internet skilled has fallen by 1 p.p. In fact, medium computer skilled people represent 17% of the population, 8 p.p. below the EU average and unchanged since 2009, and medium internet skilled people represent 22%, 10 p.p. below the EU average and up by 4 pp since 2010.

Finally, new data on internet use and confidence allow us to assess not only the level of operational ICT skills but also gives us an idea of how competent users are. The level of confidence to perform a set of activities online as well as the ability to use the internet creatively and responsibly is in most cases significantly lower than the EU average. Remarkably, only 22% of Bulgarians are confident that their level of skills is sufficient to protect their personal data and their computer from a virus or other computer infection, compared to an EU average that is more than twice as big (46%). Meanwhile, for the same indicators Austria, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK display the highest rates of above 60%. Only 4% of Bulgarians have created a web page (7 pp. below the EU average) but 19% of them have uploaded text, images, music and other material to websites (8 pp. below the EU average). At 36% the rate of people who judge their current computer or internet skills to be sufficient if they were to look for a job or change job within a year is even lower than the EU average of 43%. Looking more specifically at only those individuals in the active labour market (i.e. individuals either in employment, self-employment or actively looking for a job) shows that 45% are confident their IT skills are sufficient if they were to look for a job or change job within a year. This compares to a figure for the EU average of 53%.

e-Commerce

7% of Bulgarians have purchased a good or a service online within the last 12 months, which means that take-up of e-Commerce is well below the EU average of 43%, increasing slowly since it is up only by 2 p.p. since 2010. Bulgaria exhibits even lower rates of cross-border e-Commerce, given that 3% of the population have bought online from other EU countries and 5% have purchased online from national sellers. These figures are much lower than those observed in the average European country, that is to say 10% and 39% respectively. Lack of trust, infrastructure and an e-Commerce culture are only a few of the reasons why citizens in Bulgaria do not engage so much in online shopping.

In 2011 Bulgaria had the lowest percentage of enterprises engaging in e-Commerce (3%), with respect to an EU average of 13%. The same goes for SMEs: only 3% engaged in e-Commerce in 2011 while the EU average was 12%. The share of enterprises which made cross-border sales to other EU Member States in 2011 is one of the lowest in the EU (2% of all enterprises, and of SMEs), with the figure for the EU average in 2011 being 6% (for all enterprises and for SMEs). 6% of Bulgarian companies purchased online in 2011 (up 2 p.p. over 2010), while the EU average was 19%. The figure for enterprises' turnover achieved through e-Commerce in 2011 was 2%, well below the EU average (14% in 2010 and 2011).

Internet usage e-Government

Bulgaria's e-Government strategy is broadly based on two pillars, the Concept of eGovernment in Bulgaria 2010-2015 and the Common Strategy for eGovernment in Bulgaria 2011-2015. The 'Concept of e-Government' represents the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications' vision for e-Government in 2015 and the principles by which this is to be achieved. The document has no independent legal significance, but it serves as a basis for developing a national strategy and a roadmap for e-Government in Bulgaria until 2015.