News Briefs from Bulgaria

SOFIA (06/12/2000) - The Austrian company Red-Stàrs.Com Data AG plans to invest in Internet and e-business companies in Bulgaria and eastern Europe by buying stakes in them, Business Development Manager Jurgen Vogel announced during his visit to Bulgaria. Red-Stàrs.Com is eight weeks old and so far has four investment projects in the region -- in the Czech Republic, Poland and Russia.

Other news from Bulgaria Monday include events at the IT exhibition for the military sector -- Hemus 2000 -- that took place last week in Plovdiv.

State-of-the-art communication technologies were in focus this year. Bulgarian institutes, high schools, and private companies demonstrated own-developed technologies. Among the foreign participants were Swedish Ericsson, U.S.'s Harris, Swiss Crypto, and the Czech AURA.

Furthermore, the best student programmers come from the Sofia University, according to a programming contest between Bulgarian and Macedonian university teams. Second best are students from Skopjie, and third from the American University.

Sheraton Hotel and the analogue mobile operator Mobikom will be the first users of e-business modules from the Scala Solutions family, Scala.Buy and Scala.Sales, announced the Country Manager of the Dutch software company Svetla Petkova. The local office is now testing the solution for WAP business, and will demonstrate it in the autumn in cooperation with Ericsson.

A universal card for Internet access, E-card, developed by the local company Å-card, appeared on the Bulgarian market. A user can access more than one ISP with it. The largest local Internet providers, GOCIS, Orbitel, Spectrum Net and ProLink, support the service.

The company Alphatech, based in the city of Rousse, has opened a computer shop.

Recently, the company started distributing the motherboard Sky Star 1, designed for digital TV among other things.

The Bulgarian-Bavarian company BBF-ZEAT has moved its office into its own building. A special guest at the opening was Matyas Gerlay, business development manager for the Balkans and service manager for Alpha servers. BBF ZEAT, which is a Compaq-Digital authorized service partner, is also opening a Compaq service warehouse. The other Compaq service partners here are Insyst Electronics and ProSoft.

Philips Bulgaria has also moved its office and announced the retirement of the current Country Manager Allard Towen. His successor is the manager of Philips Romania - Jeroen van Heesewijk, who is also responsible for the whole Balkan region.

The interest in GIS in Bulgaria is huge but the users are still very few. This was one of the conclusions from "Infrastructure for Geographic Information 2000," an international seminar held in Sofia. The seminar is part of the project PANEL-GI (Pan European Link for Geographical Information), financed by the European Union (EU). Lecturer was the Deputy Minister of Transport and Telecommunications Ivan Taushanov.

An international Y2K conference will be held this weekend at the Sunny Beach resort. Organizers are the Cabinet and the Regional Y2K center. The conference will evaluate the efforts and achievements on the Y2K problem in Bulgaria.

The police and the tax authorities have found illegal software, installed on PCs for sale, in the office of the local firm Multielectronics in Sofia.

Criminal charges have been filed against the company. However, the police also found that the employees' PCs have licensed software installed. In addition, the police in the city of Sliven checked the local companies BIS and Palitra.

The illegal software found there was valued at US$100,000. Both companies will be taken to court.

A committee on information technology was created as part of the Association of the Commercial Banks. Its purpose is to improve communications between the association and the Bulgarian National bank, the Ministry of Finance, the firm Bankservice (a software developer and systems integrator), as well as to improve the information environment in banks.

10 to 15 more software firms will be supported by Germany, as part of the long-term project for helping the software industry in Bulgaria, financed by the German Federal Government. The companies that join the project will be helped to implement ISO 9000.

The lack of IT competence and the huge expenses involved stand in the way of establishing an e-government in Bulgaria. This was the main conclusion from the South-East European E-Commerce event in Sofia. EU members shared their experience in that area. The Minister of Transport and Telecommunications Antoni Slavinski talked about the e-commerce opportunities in the region. IT companies from Greece, Austria and Bulgaria established business contacts there.

Siemens signed a one-year contract for 75 million German marks with the Bulgarian GSM operator MobilTel for delivery of new equipment for the GSM network. The replacement of the equipment is necessary because of the huge growth in the number (287,000) of MobilTel subscribers - a 262 percent increase since the beginning of this year. The project includes the delivery of 140 new base stations, new software for the old ones, building of an intelligent network.

Europe has selected Bulgaria as a center for high-speed Internet access on the Balkans, announced Gregoir Beznier from the Bureau of International Research and technological cooperation during a specialized forum - InfoBulgaria. The European Commission will partially finance the project.

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