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COMPUTERWORLD | Articles | Government Policies
07 Mar
2008
 
 

Key ICT Projects in Bulgaria in 2007 and 2008

According to a recent study by IDC CEMA in Bulgaria, "while the banking industry, the telecoms, and the government offered significant growth opportunities until now, IT vendors should notice the huge potential of the manufacturing and utilities industries, as well as the long-neglected healthcare sector." The IT projects implemented in 2007, and those that have started in 2008, are a proof of this trend which gradually has become obvious in the last 2-3 years.

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By Tania Batchvarova

32 IT projects entered the fourth consecutive edition of Computerworld Bulgaria’s contest “IT Project of the Year”, supported by ProCredit Bank – a fact that can be applied as an appropriate illustration of the IT initiatives in Bulgaria during the last year. Traditionally organizations that participate in the contest are enterprises and public organizations creating advanced IT infrastructures and using IT for high level business automation. Almost half of the projects submitted by the private sector were ERP implementations at big enterprises and retail companies. A significant part of the IT projects in the public sector were related to achieving compliance with the European directives and requirements for further data exchange with EU systems. Examples of such implementations are the IT systems at the National Agency of Fisheries and Aquaculture and at the Paying Agency at the „Agriculture” State Fund that had to implement all EU regulations regarding the agricultural industry.

There were two categories in the contest – “Public organizations and companies” and “Corporate projects”. Three projects were nominated in each of the categories, with one winner in each category.

The “Public organizations and companies” top award went to the project called

“Electronic system for taxation and control of the “Blue zone” parking places in Sofia.

The system was implemented by “Parkings and Garages” Ltd., a Sofia municipal company.

The other nominees were the “Treasury Management” (TREMA) system at the Bulgarian National Bank, and the “Creation of National Aerospace Surveillance Center” at the Ministry of State Policy for Disasters and Accidents.

The importance of the TREMA system is tightly related with the preparation for joining the Single Euro Payment Area – SEPA in 2010. The deadline for the introduction of SDD (SEPA Direct Debit) and the implementation of PSD (Payment Service Directive) is November 2009. The new BNB system will be based on ISO 20022 UNIFI XML standards, thus allowing for the corresponding software changes at the commercial banks.

The “Corporate projects” top award went to the project

“Optimizing the process of invoicing through BankService’s e-invoice service in Raiffeisen Leasing Bulgaria”.

Three months after the start of „eFaktura“ (e-Invoice in translation) service for electronic invoicing approximately 10,000 electronic invoices are being „issued“ month by Bankservice PLC, a company that is a registered digital certification authority in Bulgaria. Company executives expect that by the end of 2008 Bankservice will issue more than 1,000,000 invoices monthly. The public sector could also benefit from this new services, government representatives said during a special press conference, as the number of the invoices in the public administration nears 9,000 per day, or 2,5 million per year. Currently there are about 15 countries in the EU that have ongoing initiatives or strong support for the introduction of electronic invoicing in the payment relationships between the business and the government.

The other two nominees were the projects ”SAP for Retail ERP implementation” at the Piccadilly retail chain and the “IP-based Surveillance in Sectron / SOT 161”, a security services company.

Sectron / SOT 161 implemented a new surveillance system based on high-speed 54Mbps IP network. The project was implemented by the system integrator Bynet Bulgaria, using the Cisco Systems IPICS (IP Interoperability and Collaboration System), platform, which provides connectivity between different types of fixed and mobile networks for voice, video and data transfer. This is the first implementation of the IPICS solution in Bulgaria and second in Europe.

The contest’s jury consisted of representatives of KPMG, the State Agency for IT and Communications, the Bulgarian Association of Software Companies BASSCOM, The Bulgarian Association for IT - BAIT, the Project Management Association, ЕSI Center Bulgaria, ProCredit Bank, and ICT Мedia. The jury also awarded a special prize for significant contribution to the development of the information society Bulgaria. The prize was awarded to

the Telecentres project.

The Telecenters Project is a joint project between the Government of Bulgaria and UNDP. It aims at establishing a nation-wide network of public “telecenters” providing IT-related services to the widest possible range of users in small or economically underdeveloped communities.

In parallel to the establishment of “telecenters”, more powerful centers with state-of-the-art technology equipment will be established at strategic locations in some of the big cities - airports, conference centers, and others. These will be set up in partnership with businesses to showcase the latest breakthroughs in communication and computer services and are intended to be used by businessmen and citizens that demand more advanced information services, such as access to virtual private networks, broadband communications, video conferencing, access to specialist Internet resources, online banking, etc.

Some of the most important IT projects in 2007 were started or ongoing in the Bulgarian

Healthcare Sector.

The long-awaited information system of the Bulgarian National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) is expected to be ready in June 2008. A consortium between BULL S.A. (France), SIVECO (Romania) and Makabi Health Care Services (Israel) is building up this new information system.

The first pilot project for health e-cards was successfully finished in October 2007, including 1000 patients, 7 GPs and 4 pharmacies in the area of Slivnica municipality. The project was implemented realized by InterComponentWare SP (ICW), Kontrax and Cisco Systems. During the first month, 450 patients benefited from the system, in the second month they were 540, and currently almost 70% of the patients already actively use their e-cards.

The project for a National healthcare portal and implementation of personal electronic health records for 40,000 white-collar workers started in 2007 too. ICW via its Bulgarian and German offices together with the local system integrator Kontrax are installing the system. The electronic health record is not just a tool for assisting the communication between patients and doctors and the provision of medical services. It also enables every citizen to manage his/her own health. People in Bulgaria should be aware of this while we witness the creation of so many projects for e-healthcare, ICW representatives commented.

In 2008 the implementation of two more projeсts are starting – the

“Regional development 2008-2013” and “Development of telecommunication infrastructure of the Ministry of the Interior”.

In October 2007 the Council of Ministers decided to put 35 million Euros in the implementation of a national telecommunication infrastructure for the Ministry of the Interior. Funding was provided by the Nordic Investment Bank. The aim is to leverage the capacity of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, providing compliance with the European legislation regarding the areas of justice and interior. The new telecommunication system will converge voice, data and video.

A major project to be ended in 2008 is the creation of

three regional e-government centers.

HP Bulgaria was chosen to buildl up the “central” regional e-government center, after a public tender. HP Bulgaria will rely on five subcontractors: Norma Ltd., Vereo Ltd., Comsoft Ltd., Sirma Group and InfoNotary EAD. The second regional e-government center will be built in Sliven, and the contract was signed with Siemens IT Solutions and Services Bulgaria, also having subcontractors: Siemens Austria and CNSys Plc. The third regional e-government center will be based in Varna and the public tender was won by Storma consortium consisting of the companies Stemo, Materna Germany and Oracle Austria.

The National Revenues Agency (NRA)

is also carrying out important projects. The French company BULL is implementing the information system of NRA. It has to be finalized in 2008. Since January 2007 the first modules of the system are in use.

The NRA started its work in 2006 as a result of the Bulgarian governments decision in October 1999 for optimization of the tax administration (TA) and integration of NSSI functions related to the collection of the insurance payments.

New ways and means should be applied in order to financially motivate the citizens to use digital signatures and to communicate with the public administration by electronic way in Bulgaria, according to the President of the Coordination Council for Information Society Plamen Vachkov. The proposal has been made by the Director of the National Revenues Agency Maria Murgina. She provided further information on the development of the information system of the Agency. As a result of the successful implementation of e-government services at the NRA, 47% of the companies submitted their VAT information online. A quarter sent their “Declarations 6” over the Internet and 16% of the employers registered the labour contracts online.

The Bulgarian Emergency Calls System 112

is to be ready in the end of 2008. A 112 Center at the capital Sofia is already built-up. Currently there is an ongoing tender for the extension of the Sofia center and the creation of five new centers – in Varna, Rousse, Bourgas, Plovdiv and Montana. They all have to be ready by the end of 2008, according to the Deputy Minister of the State Policy for Disasters and Accidents, who spoke at a roundtable „Implementing 112 telephone, sharing best practices and experience “. The roundtable was attended by representatives from Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, etc.

The Bulgarian Judicial System

started a big PHARE tender that had to be finished until the end of 2007. According to an official report on the current IT status of the judicial system published in December 2007, the goals of the 3-years‘ cetralized national IT project have not yet been met.

The implementation and the usage of modern information and communication technologies aimed at leveraging the effectiveness of work, reducing the expenditures and opening the judicial system to the society. As a part of the report it was recommended that the courts of justice should have self-dependent choice of an IT system to work with. Every system must be based on certain standards which still have to be defined.

From the start of the year, 7 public procurement notices funded by the PHARE programme have been announced in Bulgaria. The total amount of the contracts for delivery and supply of technique and equipment and for services would reach 25.8 million BGN.

Governing body of all the procedures is the Central Finance and Contracts Unit Department at the Ministry of Finance, and the beneficiaries of the grant are other state structures. Among them is the Ministry of Justice and judiciary institutions, the Ministry of Interior and the Police, the Ministry of the State Policy For Disasters And Accidents and the authorities in this field and the National Agency Of Fisheries And Aquaculture.

The Competition Protection Commission (CPC) will develop and maintain an

electronic register for all the acts the regulative body issues.

All CPC judgments for ending of proceedings will be published in the register. Also it will contain all the judgments regarding concentration cases (mergers and acquisitions). The main part of this information is available at the site of CPC, but it is more complicate for users to find the necessary information. The new register is part of the draft of the new Competition Protection Law. The draft was presented during the conference “Harmonization of National Legislation in the Area of Competition – a Precondition for the Effective Implementation of the European Law”, held in October 2007. The amendments were proposed by the Italian Competition Body and the Bulgarian CPC as part of a twinning project funded by PHARE. The draft envisages thoroughly new sanction policy. Until now the CPC could use fixed amounts for the sanctions it imposed. The new act provides new sanctions principle: the fines will be formed as a percentage of the turnover of the entities for the previous financial year.

The system of the Electronic Commercial Registry

After being delayed twice in 2007, the Electronic Commercial Registry system started on the first working day of the year 2008. The re-registration of all existing companies is free. There is the problem with the usage of digital signatures, as in Bulgaria only certificates from four local suppliers are acknowledged. This means companies from abroad should acquire such Bulgarian digital certificate, otherwise they can not register a new entity in the Entry Agency and in the electronic system.

The modernization of the Bulgarian Army

will by funded by a new investment project, representatives from the Council of Ministries announced recently. The project will be ongoing untill 2022. The funding will be provided through the budget of the Ministry of Defence. The long-term project amounts to 400 milion levs and will implement 24 of the main purposes of the Bulgarian Army's modernization. In the beginning of this year the Italian company “Finmecanika”, the American ITT and the British BAE Systems have declared interest towards the project.

Geo-data system for precious metals and radioactive materials

By 2010 Bulgaria will have an information system for geo-data on precious metals and radioactive materials. The Ministry of Environment and Water of Bulgaria announced an open public tender for “Digitalizing the geological research data about precious metals and radioactive elements”. The public tender requires the creation of an information system for reliable storage and consolidation of all the available geological research information in the National Geo-fund by digitalizing the documentation.

Bulgaria renewed it's membership in CEENet.

The membership and the coordination of the Bulgarian side will be held by the association called „Bulgarian Research and Education Network“. Bulgaria is already included in all the projects of CEENet, one of which aims at the development of a network security laboratory. During the next few years a regional center will be established in Bulgaria for education and training of specialists from all the countries participating in the CEENet.

In the end of 2007 a project was started for the delivery of

PCs, notebooks and multimedia projectors for the Bulgarian schools.

The huge tender is funded through the state budget. A total amount of 32.5 million levs was approved by the Council of Ministers this year for the program for implementation of ICT in Bulgarian schools. According to Orlin Kouzov, IT Advisor at the Ministry of Education and Science, 10 to 15 million levs will be provided for the public tender for PCs, notebooks and projectors. The schools with highest number of pupils and teachers will get more equipment, said Kouzov.

All the public schools in Bulgaria started the new academic year with a new, common computer network and broadband Internet access. The “National educational network for the schools” project was started in September 2005 and had to be carried out by a consortium “Schools online” consisting of four companies – BTC, Paraflow Communications, Larexo and Telelink. They also created a central Control Center that manages and secures all the operations and connections of the network.

A first of its kind

payments system based on mobile communications

was approved by the Bulgarian National Bank recently. SEP-Bulgaria, which stands for “System for Electronic Payments”, is a new company that was awarded a system operator licence for, thus becoming the third payments system operator in Bulgaria (the first two are Bankservice and BORICA). SEP-Bulgaria is the very first to operate an electronic payments tool called „mobile payments“. There are a lot of different versions of such a system all over the world, but the one developed by SEP Bulgaria is very extensive, said Atanas Sharkov, Chief Operative Officer at SEP Bulgaria and co-founder of the company. In the following months banks and mobile operators will put their efforts in joining the mobile payments system.

All ICT projects in the Bulgarian state administration amount to more than 1 million BGN (appr. 512,000 euros) will go through a compulsory procedure of examination and approval. The examination will be conducted by the Coordination Council for Information Society at the Council of Ministers. The aim of the new procedure is to help avoiding the double funding of projects and the inexpedient spending of the state budget. The examination and approval mechanism concerns all ICT projects funded by the state budget, operative programs of the European Union, PHARE, gratuitous aid programs and credit agreements with international bodies.

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