We are entering a new era where every organization will become a digital organization, and every nation will become a digital nation. In this era digital technology will be the key input that powers the world’s economic output. Kalin Dimchev, Country Manager of Microsoft Bulgaria, in his newest interview talked about the transformation in digitalization, the development of Bulgaria in this area and how does Microsoft help the state to become a more active participant in all processes due to the recovery and resilience.
In the last decade, Bulgaria witnessed a profound transformation both in terms of the startup ecosystem and overall digitalization. Can we agree on that conclusion, if we analyze this period meticulously?
Microsoft operates in 190 countries around the globe and has been present on the Bulgarian market for 23 years. What we have observed in that time, especially in the last decade, is the scale of digital development and its maturity, especially in the recent period. There is no single organization, private or public, that does not have a digital transformation on its agenda.
To what do we owe this development, which has accelerated in recent years?
The geopolitical situation is the crucial reason why the development has intensified during the past few years, apart from the needs of the society and the competition. It demands more from the business, and digital transformation is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to make that happen. I will give you one example in Bulgaria: there is a community of nearly 65,000 developers on various platforms, and a large part of these experts work with the most innovative technologies, cloud technologies, artificial intelligence, and big data. That is a prerequisite for large, global international companies to arrive in Bulgaria, make their development centers in Bulgaria with Bulgarian specialists, and develop the newest solutions and products on a global scale.
In this sense, can we say that the business environment is suitable for any high-tech business?
Yes, the business environment is favorable, but there is still a long way to go. Two years ago, our company provided a Global Skilling Initiative program to improve skills, benefiting nearly 48,000 people in Bulgaria. It is free and covers various skills, starting from digital skills for programming and working with different technologies, to the regional needs of the business, such as digital marketing, work processes, efficiency, and financial status. With all this, we offer relevant digital skills for the most demanded jobs today.
When we talk about the world of technology, perhaps the keyword is adjustment. Entrepreneurs must be adaptable to this environment in our country. Is this the moment to adapt?
Although the country has been slower to adapt, here, too, as I mentioned about skills and education, there are significant challenges that every one of us, businesses and the state, must consider. The geopolitical situation has shown that there is one major problem, and that is cybersecurity: access to data, data security, people handling it, data protection, and whether people use licensed software or relevant tools. We understand that this is also a major challenge for the state business that must be dealt with continuously. Let me give you one example. According to our statistics, a year ago, the amount of cybercrime damage was 6 billion dollars worldwide. In the next three years, in 2025, it is expected to reach 12 billion dollars. This is to understand the scale of this problem. We at Microsoft prevent close to 1,000 password thefts every second. That is, indeed, something that each of us should think about and consider.
Besides adjustment, the requirements are growing for all market participants. How is Microsoft responding to the competition as many new emerging companies also have their own desire to be leaders in their respective markets?
We work with basic principles. We provide platforms for education and new skills; we motivate and inspire young people, mainly pupils and students, to use new technologies in the STEM environment to develop and target areas with a high added value. All this contributes to the development of the state, business, and the economy.
You suggested the slow progress of the public sector when it comes to adjustment. However, a serious opportunity arises for the state to become a more active participant in all these processes due to the recovery and resilience plan. Businesses also follow these topics, and I guess Microsoft as well.
You are absolutely right. The statistics are generally not good for the current state of digital transformation from the state’s point of view. Civil servants can be much more efficient, i.e., we are several times less efficient than the average European level. Also, small and medium-sized enterprises are almost two times less efficient in digital transformation compared to the average for European SMEs, which not only gives us a big gap to fill but also provides us with an opportunity for rapid transformation. For us, the recovery and resilience plan is the tool number one and maybe, historically, the largest instrument, financed by the European Union and other sources, to help provide platforms and development guidelines quickly.
Following the plan in question simply means an amount of money that will enter a country. However, how could such a type of plan change the respective country?
The large sum of over 6.2 billion euros will be provided to the Bulgarian state, and nearly 26% of this money will be invested into digital transformation. There will be various projects for businesses, state administration, and health care. The main thing here is not only to anticipate the quantitative dimensions of these projects because they will indeed be large-scale, but also the qualitative changes they will provide. What will change, how will the business environment improve, how will this help small and medium-sized enterprises, and how will it empower education and high-quality provision of new technologies and new areas of business development in Bulgaria? It is essential for us to have an understanding, a partnership, a desire for change in the state administration, and an effective and visible result of the recovery and resilience plan.
What are the areas in which Microsoft is ready to participate actively? Where exactly does the power lie in a large company?
For us, education is the main priority – the focus on new skills, qualification change, and requalification, especially in the context of digital transformation. Also, healthcare is the field where we work on such huge-scale projects worldwide, and we also share knowledge in many successful partnerships and projects in different areas.
What is the company planning from now on in Bulgaria? We exclude the topic of the plan, which will obviously be important both for the state and for business in our country.
Soon, we will announce one exciting project on Bulgarian soil, aimed at STEM, educating young people and teachers. We are really proud that Microsoft will provide something of this scale in the Bulgarian market and to Bulgarian users.
In your opinion, what will be the next big thing to change the digital sphere in general? As we see now, there are also military conflicts and geopolitical tensions. What will be that catalyst that could complement the overall environment?
From our point of view, there will not be one specific thing that will change the world. The path that we as a country, business, and state administration, choose to follow in a relatively short period, with the help of the recovery and resilience plan can be truly extraordinary. The business, education sector, state administration and the overall economy in Bulgaria must go through effective change.