Close to 57 per cent of Bulgarian households have home internet access, three per cent higher than in 2013, according to a survey by the National Statistical Institute (NSI), the results of which were released on December 12 2014.
The survey found, hardly surprisingly, that the most regular internet users were young, with more than 83 per cent of the 16 to 24 age group accessing the internet either daily or at least once weekly.
Overall, internet users in Bulgaria were statistically, most likely to be male, with tertiary education, and using their online access for communications such as e-mail and online services including Skype and Viber.
The survey found an annual increase of about three per cent in the relative share of households using broadband internet connection as this share reached 56.5 per cent in 2014, meaning that almost all households with internet access were ensured with a fast and reliable connection.
There is a notable trend in growth for the introduction of new technologies – in a five year period, the share of households with internet access has increased by 23.6 percentage points and broadband connection usage has increased by 30.5 percentage points, the NSI said.
In 2014 the highest relative share of households with internet access was found in the south-western region of Bulgaria, 63.4 per cent, where capital city Sofia is located, followed by the north-central region and the south-central region, respectively with 59.6 per cent and 54.2 per cent.
The households in the north-western region lagged behind the tendency within the country, as there only 43.8 per cent of households had access to the internet at home.
In 2014, 53.7 per cent of individuals aged 16 – 74 years used the internet every day or at least once a week, the NSI said.
There was a stable trend of growth in regular internet usage by individuals, as in comparison to the previous year, an increase of 2.5 percentage points was registered and in comparison with 2010, an increase of 12.1 percentage points.
At the same time, the relative share of individuals aged 16 – 74 who have never used the internet has decreased from 51.2 per cent in 2010 to 37.1 per cent in 2014.
Data from surveys on ICT usage by individuals showed that the most active web users were young people between 16 and 24 years. About 83.1 per cent of them surfed the internet every day or at least once a week in 2014.
Males were more active in regular internet usage in comparison to females, respectively 54.7 per cent and 52.6 per cent.
86.3 per cent of Bulgarians with tertiary education regularly used the internet, the relative share of those with basic education or below was only 23.4 per cent.
In 2014, 50.8 per cent of regular internet users used a mobile device to access the internet away from home or work via mobile phone network or via wireless network. About 84.3 per cent of them accessed the network via mobile phone, 56.4 per cent via portable computer and six per cent via another device.
The NSI said that regular internet users mostly used the network for communication in 2014. About 95.7 per cent of them said that they used the internet for sending or receiving e-mails, telephoning over the internet or making video calls (via communication programs such as Viber, Skype etc.) or for participating in social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
About 87.8 per cent of individuals used the internet to access information (online newspapers, news or finding information about goods or services).
The share of those who used the internet for entertainment (listening to web radio, playing games, downloading images, films or music etc.) was 63.9 per cent and those who used it for creativity (uploading self-created content such as text, music, videos to websites to be shared or creating websites or blogs etc.) added up 36.6 per cent.
Only 3.5 per cent of individuals regularly using the internet used it for “E-health” (making an appointment with a practitioner, hospital etc.), the NSI said.
About 29.5 per cent used the internet for other online services related to travel and accommodation, selling goods or services and internet banking.
The use of cloud services for private purposes was observed for the first time in 2014, the NSI said.
These services offer the possibility to store files on a server accessible over the internet. Many of them are used for sharing files with others.
Cloud computing means that individuals move from using their own resources (hardware, software) to using the resources of a cloud computing provider as a service via the internet.
The survey results showed that in Bulgaria, 21.3 per cent of regular internet users aged 16 – 74 used storage space on the internet to save or share documents, pictures, music, video, other files or used file sharing services in 2014.
Among regular internet users, 23.1 per cent of males and 19.4 per cent of females used cloud services.
About 34.2 per cent of regular internet users aged 16 – 24 used cloud services and this fact
once again defined the youngest age group as the most active in using new technologies, the NSI said.
Next in line were people aged 25 – 34 (24 per cent) and of those aged 35 – 44 (19.9 per cent).
Only eight per cent of people aged 55 years and over, who regularly use the internet, used storage space or file sharing services over the internet.
The most common use for the cloud was to save or share photos (94.8 per cent); texts, spreadsheets or electronic presentations (69.4 per cent) and music (65.4 per cent). Videos (including films, TV programmes) over the cloud was saved by 51.7 per cent of people using such services; e-books or emagazines by 33.3 per cent and other type of data, by 23.5 per cent.
Individuals mainly used cloud services for free. Only 11.5 per cent from the users of such services paid for them in 2014.
The most frequent problem experienced by 59.5 per cent of the cloud services users was the slow speed of access or use. About 33.1 per cent of users faced technical server problems (e.g. unavailability of the service) and 29.3 per cent, problems related to incompatibility between different devices or file formats.
Problems related to disclosure of data to third parties due to security problems or breach were faced by the lowest number of cloud users, 7.8 per cent.
Of regular internet users who did not use cloud services 74.2 per cent did not know that the cloud existed, the NSI found.
Others, who knew the cloud existed but did not use it, had varying reasons. Most often people avoided using cloud because they prefered to save files on their own devices, e-mail account or they do not save files (54.4 per cent) while another 53.6 per cent shared files using other ways or did not share files online with others at all.
Twenty-one per cent of Bulgarians used the internet to interact with government or local authorities in 2014.
The highest relative share was observed for individuals who received information from public authorities website (19.5 per cent), followed by the relative share of individuals who downloaded official forms from a relevant webpage (13.5 per cent) and ones who sent filled in forms (7.4 per cent) in the last 12 months.
Females were more active in the usage of online services provided by public authorities in comparison to males – respectively 22.1 per cent and 19.9 per cent, the NSI said.
The survey results indicate that there was a gradual increase of the relative share of individuals who made personal (not job-related) purchases online. In the last 12 months prior to the interview, 16.6 per cent of people aged 16 – 74 years made online purchases, 4.5 percentage points higher than in 2013.
Males were more active in online shopping than females in 2014 – respectively 17.2 per cent and 16 per cent.
Most often individuals purchased online clothes and sport goods: 72.5 per cent. Next in line were orders related to household goods (31.3 per cent) and orders related to trips and hotel reservations (28 per cent).
Individuals used mostly offline payment methods for goods or services ordered over the internet. Of them, 60.2 per cent used a payment method without using the internet (in cash, via ordinary bank transfer etc.) in 2014.
Those who made payments via credit or debit card added up to 33.4 per cent. The share of those who used a pre-paid card or prepaid account (ePay, PayPal etc.) over the internet was 23.7 per cent and of those who used internet banking, 7.9 per cent, the NSI said.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)