Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in Belgium
Female working on her laptop
ICT is a key area for future development and growth of many sectors and the economy as whole. It feeds into almost any other sector and is a source of innovation and efficiency gains in both public and private sector.
The country has a long history of successful ICT projects. It pioneered automated bank clearing systems, cable TV, electronic identity and social security cards, interoperable ATM and POS systems, and broadband services.
Today the ICT sector is one of the most dynamic in Belgium, with a turnover of 35 billion euro the ICT sector contributes 10% of GDP per year.
The country’s size, location and high level of technological literacy make it an ideal starting point for British companies, who want to expand into Europe. The government also understands the importance of ICT for the country’s economy, which is why it funds clusters in microelectronics, multimedia, e-security, broadband technology and mobile applications.
With modern day innovation and technological developments in ICT, the transition to eHealth systems in the Belgian healthcare system is growing in popularity. Secure electronic services and information exchange, with respect for privacy protection and in close cooperation with the various public and private healthcare actors, are crucial in implementing eHealth systems in the Belgian market.
IT solutions for the financial sector
Companies who specialise in the development and integration of software packages for the financial and banking sector should consider looking at the Belgian market – above all those who have financial experts with a thorough functional knowledge of the banking sector, strong expertise in advanced computer technologies and excellent knowledge of core standard banking systems.
Security of IT is of the highest strategic importance to any business, many of which are becoming increasingly dependent on IT. There is a clear trend in cyber security becoming a priority in both the private and public sector although some managers (in some sectors) may still need convincing of the return on investing in security.
Cloud computing has been one of the major (r)evolutions in the last five years and is continuing to present opportunities. By the end of 2013 roughly 26% of Belgian enterprises have fully or partially transferred ICT operations to the cloud. Although only a minority, the number is growing rapidly. The main selling point for the cloud is that it allows for a higher level of flexibility and cost efficiency for both the setting up of technical infrastructure as well as for the actual users.
Today’s business has more data than ever; business analytics and big data can turn shapeless information into valuable insight. While most Belgian companies are still only exploring the possibilities, big data is set to become a priority for the coming years as the amount of data increases and the costs of soft and hardware will likely decrease.
Digital and Social Media Marketing
On the crossroads between Marketing, ICT and Big Data Enterprise Social Networking offers opportunities for companies active in Digital and Social Media Marketing (including search engine optimisation, technical delivery of digital and social media solutions, app builders, etc).
At this moment, the uptake of BYOD is slowing down due to obstacles like the impact on the cost of information security. However, people are bringing their own devices to work and sooner or later BYOD will be a common practice. In many sectors the end users are already using their own devices to get the job done (i.e. a nurse using her own phone as a calendar). Remote and mobile working is creating a demand for BYOD that will likely overcome the current obstacles.
In 2013 mobile offices have become the norm; statistics show there more companies equip their staff with a portable pc or tablet rather than with standard desktops.
ICT for Education
Students in Belgium enjoy above EU average ICT infrastructure conditions (computer provision and fast broadband). Student and teacher use of ICT varies but is generally below the EU average, particularly with regards to the use of social media. With capacity above and actual use below EU average, the uptake of ICT in Education will grow over the following years.
The Federal Public Service for Information and Communication Technology (FEDICT) – was set up in May 2001 and became fully operational in 2002. Fedict defines and implements the federal e-government strategy. Fedict is involved in building and developing the software for the electronic identity card (eID) and develops new online services aimed at the general public, businesses and civil servants, and made available through the federal portal. In 2013/2014 several framework projects will be put out for tender, including ICT services and integration and ICT development projects.
Getting into the market
Belgium is a highly competitive growing market with opportunities for international trade, especially for small and medium sized businesses. The Belgian market places a high premium on factors such as design, quality, delivery, and after sales service.
British companies wishing to enter and / or develop their business in the Belgian market are advised to undertake as much market research and planning as possible.
There are few barriers to entry with Belgium being a multilingual country with numerous cultural and business links to the UK.
Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).
To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.
Wouter Debeyne, British Embassy Brussels. Tel: +32 287 62 42 or email: [email protected]
UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.