ESC: BULGARIAN BUSINESS IS LAGGING BEHIND IN THE PROCESS OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
The Economic and Social Council adopted the opinion "Challenges to Businesses in the Context of the Digitization of the Economy". With this document the ESC emphasizes on the digital transformation of Bulgarian businesses and restates that two years after the adoption of the Concept for Digital Transformation of Bulgarian Industry (Industry 4.0) there is still no Strategy 4.0. ESC calls for a faster adoption of this strategy and because of the fact that the National Development Strategy "Bulgaria 2030" is being elaborated, which outlines the first strategic goal namely technological transformation.
ESC also draws attention to the need for urgent adoption of a national plan for the provision of online administrative services, with clear deadlines for the digitization of this type of services. ESC is of the opinion that there are no strategic documents, no harmonization of regulations, no fully functioning e-government. Statistical data on Bulgaria and its development in the field of new technologies and their implementation indicate a worrying lag compared to other EU Member States. Therefore, according to ESC, it is even more urgent to develop a common framework, and an incentive one, stimulating both for Bulgarian businesses and universities, for technology parks, for the whole scientific and applied technological infrastructure.
ESC underlines that employers and business organizations can play a leading role in the digitization process, while at the same time they need to be informed and supported. In this respect, the opinion addresses a number of business challenges that underlie Bulgaria's delay and lag compared to the processes underway in other European countries. These challenges include adequate educational infrastructure, standardization in the field of connectivity and data exchange, development of artificial intelligence, insufficient digital knowledge and skills, building a reliable and secure ICT structure, etc.
In its opinion, ESC recommends the implementation of an integrated approach to address a number of emerging and accumulated technological transformation problems, using the capacity of national industry associations, as well as building business support networks and cooperation platforms between universities, technology parks. and innovation centres.
Particular attention is paid to the training of the staff and their adaptation to the digital transformation in higher education, and it is recommended to identify 5 main trends: personal training, project based training, data interpretation, knowledge assessment by means of projects rather than tests, and validation of the role of the teacher as an increasingly important factor in the learning process.
Last but not least, ESC also questions the financing of the technological transformation process, noting with concern that the share of ICT enterprises' investments has fallen from 7.4% of all investments in 2011 to 0.4% in 2018. At the same time, the document notes that even though investments in intellectual property products are growing, they have reached merely 12.6% of all investments in 2018. ESC recommends that, when using public financial resources from the Innovation Fund and national operational programmes, an IT component and an assessment of the innovation capacity of the enterprise under the European Standard for Innovation Management should be included in the evaluations of project proposals.