Bulgaria and Macedonia Information Nations?

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 10:49 By Sanja Stamenkovic, Jefferson Institute

We live in the era of information. Internet has become a part of almost every aspect of modern human life. Internet Live Stats says 37.9% of the world population were using internet in 2013. Internet World Stats is claiming that 70,5% of Europeans were using the internet in 2014. 

According to the Bulgarian National Statistical Institute and State Statistical Office of Macedonia total of 36 regions of the Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Bulgaria range from 36,6% to 77,5% internet users in 2013. Compared to the Europe and the World, these regions have the percentage of internet users matching those from undeveloped countries up to those in the EU. Both lowest and highest % internet users are in the regions of Bulgaria. There is a noticeable heterogeneity in the internet use frequency in Bulgaria.

The highest percentage of internet users in Bulgaria seem to be living in urban regions and regions with the younger population. The highest % internet penetration by far in Bulgaria is noted in the region of the capital - Sofia (77,5%). The Bulgarian regions with the lowest % of internet users are Targovishte (36,6%) and Paradzik (36,7%).

What might be the reason for such unbalanced percent of online Bulgarians by regions? Using a variety of variables, Regional Profiles rated the state of 8 relevant group categories for every region. Using the comprehensive comparison tool, we compared two Bulgarian regions - the one with the highest and the one with the lowest percent of internet users - Targovishte vs Sofia the city. Similar to the differences in the percentage of internet users, these two regions mutualy differ in every shown aspect.

According to the graph shown below, Sofia (capital) is in a much more favorable position is almost every category. The only two catogories that are more favorable in Targovishte are Taxes and administration and Environment. One of the categories most relevant to the internet use - infrastructure is much more favorably rated in Sofia, than in Targovishte. 


Education is one of the factors directly connected to the number of internet usage - the greater the level of education - the higher is the possibility to use internet more often. Targovishte has nearly 3 times lower percent of population with tertiary education

The data from National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria says that only 56,3% Bulgarian population knew how to use online search engine to find information in 2013, and only 8,6% knew how to modify security settings of their internet browsers. The weird thing though is that percent of individuals using the internet for the whole country in 2013 was 51,2%. Therefore, around 5% of Bulgarian residents who know how to “google” do not do so.

So, another weird thing - % change of % internet users from 2012 to 2013. According to NSI, internet usage (measured by % internet users) declined up to 22% in some regions in a single year.  


Unlike Bulgaria, there is no such disparity in the regions of Macedonia when it comes to internet usage. Northeastern Macedonia is the region with lowest % internet users (56%). Southeastern Macedonia is the Macedonian region with the highest % online residents (75%).

Using the data from Eurostat, we compared internet skills of Macedonians and Bulgarians on DataMarket. The level of internet skills was measured by self-assessment of 6 internet-related skills: using a search engine, sending an email, using chat rooms and forums, using the internet to make telephone calls, file sharing, and creating a web page. 

It seems that Macedonians have a higher percent of individuals with basic and intermediate internet skills, 26% vs 22% basic level skills, and 33% vs 22% medium level, whilst more Bulgarians (15%) have the high level internet skills. Percent of Bulgarians who have the high level internet skills is higher than the % of high skilled internet users in EU countries

The answer to the question about this lack of coherence in the data about Bulgarian internet usage may lay in the differences of reserach methodologies in Macedonia and Bulgaria, but may also be the result of methodology inner inconsistency related to the data for Bulgaria only. If not so, Bulgaria is realy a country with a unique and complex manner of inernet usage. 

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