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COMPUTERWORLD | Articles | Business Environment
01 Mar

IT, green technologies, health-related high-tech products and services are key areas for Bulgaria

Information technologies, eco and energy saving technologies, as well as health-related high-tech products and services are key priority areas in Bulgaria. The government supports these industries under the Investment Promotion Act (IPA).
“Bulgaria has traditions in IT and a large number well trained IT professionals,” said Evgeni Angelov, Deputy Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism at the Bulgarian Economic Forum at the end of November 2010. “The sector is characterized by high productivity and growth of added value. Bulgaria still has an energy intensive economy and most energy resources are imported. The introduction of energy efficiency improvement technologies should be a priority, especially given the ambitious targets set in the Europe 2020 strategy.”
According to him, Bulgaria has a great potential in the field of health and healthy lifestyle – the country offers a lot of trained medical professionals, a developed pharma industry, and opportunities for healthy food production. “We have to stimulate the R&D in the sphere of biotechnology and medical sciences,” points out Angelov. The benefits for certified investors include for example shortened administrative procedures, preferential acquisition conditions of state or municipal land, financial support for professional training and education.
Bulgaria has set a target to make R&D expenditure between 1.4% and 2% of the GDP compared to 0.5% in 2008. Innovations will be supported by 3 funds – risk financing, a guarantee fund and credit lines on the JEREMIE programs for SME with a total financial resource of some € 270 mln. A BIA project is being realized with € 23 mln of funding, which have to attract active investors in the priority sectors. “Industry and IT services generate 90% of exports and can provide long-term economic prosperity for Bulgaria,” said Angelov. 
The Bulgarian exports of high-tech products increased even during the economic crisis, with 34% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) for medicines for the period 2005 to 2009, 24% for radio and TV equipment, and 19% for office and computing machinery, according to Eurostat.
„Incentives should be given in accordance with the quality of the investments, not with their volume. Projects with high added value should have higher priority ,” said Kamen Kolev, Vice President of the Bulgarian Industry Association. He also notes that the e-government development is a key project for Bulgaria with many useful applications. Electronic ID card (a chip integrated in the ID), identification and e-signature through a mobile phone, common data exchange infrastructure, and the whole e-procurement system are among the most important e-government applications, Kolev added.
Bulgaria is an established name
among the world's leading companies in the sector – HP, SAP, Microsoft, Cisco, Jonson Controls, etc. SAP Labs has been operating for more than 7 years on the Bulgarian market and employs over 470 software developers. In 2007 VMware established in Sofia its new R&D center hiring more than 200 software developers. Three years later VMware Bulgaria moved to a new, 5400 sq m office in Sofia, where some 400 software engineers develop cutting edge virtualization technologies.
Hewlett–Packard, IBM, Siemens Enterprise, Sony, Microsoft, Coca Cola, Ericsson and other ICT companies have set up service support and call centers in Bulgaria.
Significant national ICT projects
Several important national IT projects were finalized in 2010, despite the tightness of IT budgets.
- The Municipality of Stara Zagora implemented an integrated e-services system. It manages all business processes associated with the administrative services, provided to citizens and companies.
There are many communication channels for service request, including Internet (through the municipality web site or the e-government portal), telephone, or on premise. Customers have the opportunity to pay by credit/debit card through the web payment sites of epay.bg or eBG.bg, via a mobile phone (ePayVoice), etc. 
The budget of this project is some 1 mln euro, and the implementation was carried out by David Holding, Ciela, and Cnsys.
- A modernization of the administrative services of the Municipality of Gabrovo was made with a GIS solution by ESRI Bulgaria. GIS gives the organizational framework for developing efficient e-government, providing cadastral information about engineering and transport infrastructure.
The project consists of an integrated geo database, a database management system, a GIS server, a web server and a Services subsystem. The client part includes basic GIS software, and two subsystems - “Cadastre and territory management” and “Municipal property management”.
- The National Revenue Agency (NRA) deployed an Informatica-based solution, which includes two components – integration (Informatica Power Center) and data validation (Informatica Data Quality). Informatica Data Services could be integrated with other business intelligence processes. The system is part of the SOA architecture applied by the NRA.
The implementation was executed by Global Consulting. 
- The Supreme Judicial Council made a big step towards e-justice by upgrading 4 different information systems for lawsuit management. A web based interface is giving access to all lawsuits from the portal http://legalacts.justice.bg/.
The total value of the IT project, realized by Latona Bulgaria, Information Services, Siemens Bulgaria, and the Desktro Group consortium, is more than 1 mln euro.
- At the beginning of January 2010, the National Assembly started using an electronic voting system that uses biomerical identification. It was implemented by Kontrax, a major system integrator in Bulgaria.
- The National System for Early Warning and Announcement (SEWA) has been available since the end of 2009. The system, realized by the Hörmann – Siemens Enterprise Networks consortium, covers 33.96% of the population of Bulgaria. It provides fast and reliable warnings and announcements for contemporary and adequate reactions, limiting and overcoming the consequences of calamities and accidents.
SEWA consists of 728 electronic sirens (model ECN 1200), 10 regional control centers, a national and an alternate control center, 2 base stations, and a repeater station. It already works in 10 big settlements, including Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Pleven, Montana, Smolyan, Kardjali, and Pazardjik.
- In March 2010 Bulgaria's Interior Ministry started issuing new IDs. The contract for the production of the country's new biometric data passports was signed between the Interior Ministry and Siemens AG in April 2009. Despite the problems in the beginning of the issuing process, by July 2010 more than 1 million Bulgarians received their new Ids, which feature a chip, a digital picture, a perforated image, a copy of the picture, and fingerprints.
- Bulstat registers, death certificates, birth certificates, certificates of marriage, personal data, properties, and the cadastre are part of the 100 services that will be fully automated in the framework of the project “Development of electronic administrative services”. The project will be realized with the financial support of Operational Programme “Administrative Capacity” and will be co-financed by the EU through the European Social Fund, noted the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications at a round table with business ICT organizations.

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