Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Transatlantic Educator's Dialogue (TED) Series-Week Eight

From January to May, the European Union Center invites educators from throughout the world to come together in an online setting and discuss important topics in modern educational practice and politics. As part of this discussion, students from the University of Illinois are invited to follow the discussion and write short posts about related topics on a country of interest. Lindsay Ozburn, a student in the EU Center’s Masters of Arts in European Union Studies program, will be contributing to this series through a multi-week study of Bulgarian politics and government. Her research will provide a thoughtful and helpful case study that will give TED participants a chance to see how their discussion topics are expressed in real life.

Week Eight Prompt: Please discuss how your country has approached recent developments in technology, especially information technology. Do many people use the internet? How fast is wifi and mobile networks? Does your country conduct frequent initiatives to further technological development, or is it left primarily to the private sector? Is there a vibrant local technology market, or are high-technologies exported in from other countries? Which technological sectors is your country primarily known for? Are the people of your country consume much technology, or do they tend to spend their money on other items? How heavily engaged are the people of your country on facebook or other social media sites? Does your country have strong measures in place to address new areas of cybercrime like identity theft, online bullying, hacking, etc?

Bulgaria’s Tech Industry
Lindsay Ozburn, MAEUS

While an admittedly small country in Europe, it has been growing as a tech giant since the early 2000s. According to Forbes, Bulgaria is ranked 5th in world for high-quality broadband and 1st in Europe. Despite having some of the fastest internet in the world, as of 2013 only 53.1% of Bulgarians use the internet, according to the World Bank. Regardless, the country is becoming known as Europe’s Silicon Valley, steadily growing the technology and IT industry since – with the exception of 2008-2010 during the peak of the European financial crisis (Marko Benda, edukwest.eu, 2015). According to Benda, while Bulgaria’s market is considered one of the least developed in Europe, steady growth is expected to push Bulgaria amongst giants.

Bulgaria has a wealth of high-skilled programmers, working for hundreds of smaller software companies. These smaller companies hold contracts with some the world’s biggest customers, including BMW, Boeing, CISCO, HP, vmware, and Nortel, according to the “Information Technology in Bulgaria” report published with support from the European Fund for Regional Development. As these skilled laborers are relatively low-cost compared to other parts of the world, they are often the recipients of outsourcing from large businesses in major countries such as the US. Additionally, their strategic geographic location allows them access to European, Russian, and some Asian markets. Bulgaria’s IT industry appears to be a good mix of private and public companies, and some NGOs, as well.

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