Bulgarians were initially somewhat slow and timid in adopting the Internet, but in the last few years the country has gradually been getting up to speed with the online world. By the end of 2005, 30 percent of Bulgaria's adult population had access to a computer and, with the number of households owning computers on the rise, a serious growth in Internet use is forecast. A recent report by the State Agency for Information Technology and Communications revealed that by this December 30 percent of Bulgarians aged over 15 will be online.
The main player in the market, the Bulgarian Telecommunication Company (BTC) has reacted to this trend with price reductions and an aggressive advertising campaign for its ADSL service. Last year, Air Bites and Hungarian Magyar Telecom, which acquired the Bulgarian company Orbitel, also entered the field. As a result, some of the smaller providers disappeared and the market stir-up is expected to continue with the introduction of WiMAX services.
Trust in doing business online is gradually increasing here. A growing number of companies not only advertise, but also sell over the Internet and the number of users who pay for goods and services electronically has also risen. Online shops are booming, with some sites offering multiple products (get.bg, 911.bg, mobilis.bg), and others operating in more specialised areas (books.bg, slon.bg, electron.bg). VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) communication looks set to take off, but the same cannot be said for the digital music market, where the copyright situation remains unclear.
Bulgarian email providers have increased the free space available to their users, but still cannot compare with the capacity and range of services offered by trendsetter Gmail. They make up for this, however, with high connection speeds.
Net Info BG, which owns the email service abv.bg, the information site netinfo.bg, the sports site sportni.bg, and the first Bulgarian portal gyuvetch.bg, heads the list of the most successful Internet companies.
Rival dir.bg remains popular and has established itself as a web search engine. Other innovative sites worth exploring are those of the Web Media Group (news.bg, finance.news.bg, topsport.bg), the network of special sites by Investor BG (start.bg, dnes. bg, tialoto.bg, snimka.bg), and the email site mail.bg.
A significant development, though, has taken place out of the limelight. Bulgaria has enthusiastically embraced the outsourcing model which involves local software firms or freelancers being commissioned by foreign companies to undertake projects on the Internet. In Sofia, 250 Bulgarian IT specialists work at Hewlett Packard's global support centre for Europe, the Near East, and Africa, and this number is expected to rise to 1,000 by 2008. Microsoft has also announced plans to open a support centre in Bulgaria next year for their customers in south eastern Europe.
The only thing lacking for the moment is an entrepreneur with enough ambition to create a local version of the so-called social networking sites, such as the popular Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, digg, Last.fm, Google Maps, and MySpace.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers