This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
The 2020 Pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the Belgian ICT market, but official statistics have not yet been made available for assessment. Unofficial numbers suggest a significant jump in security services, eCommerce related software solutions, teleworking solutions, and online videoconference services.
Belgium, nevertheless, has a vibrant ICT market. According to the Digital Economy & Society Index (DESI) that ranks European Union member states on digital performance and competitiveness, in 2019 Belgium ranked eighth overall out of 28 countries in terms of digital economy development. The ranking takes into account digital public services, connectivity, integration of digital technology, use of internet, and human capital. Belgium’s total ICT market size in 2019 was assessed at $14.4 billion, employing some 70,000 people - 45,000 in hardware, services, and software; 15,000 in operations and maintenance; and 10,000 with telecom operators.
Belgium’s ICT market is bolstered by a solid DSL telecom infrastructure developed by the majority state-owned operator, Proximus, and a pervasive co-axial cable infrastructure (particularly in Flanders) developed by the regions and communities. Effectively 100% of households have access to the internet. Some 78% of users have broadband subscriptions at 30 Mbps or greater. With three mobile operators — Proximus, Orange, and Telenet — 4G has reached 92% penetration countrywide. Proximus and Orange are working on 4.5G and 5G infrastructure to be rolled out in 2022. Proximus is exploring the roll out of Fiber-To-The-Home. Fiber-To-The-Curb is already pervasive.
Belgian has a strong political will to develop ICT and is pursuing a “Digital Belgium” Agenda that includes plans for faster connectivity, next generation mobile data, and digital skills. Furthermore, various cities are implementing Smart Cities development programs, with Antwerp being at the forefront and acting as a “living lab” for other regions and European countries.
Although in the past the Belgian government had lagged in providing online public services, it is catching up and now offers tax filings online. In addition, the Belgian government is updating its electronic procurement structure and public tenders can now be submitted online. It is expecting to soon launch its completed online-procurement system for purchasing goods from approved suppliers.
Belgians are eager internet users and readily participate in eCommerce. Sixty-five percent of internet users listen to music, play games and watch videos online, ranking 3rd in the EU. In 2020, 82% of Belgians used the internet at least once a week, with 54% of Belgians accessing the internet via a mobile device. The latter is well above the EU average of 51%.
The most widespread internet activity is banking, with 73% of Belgians performing their banking transactions online. Sixty-four percent of Belgian consumers have purchased goods or services online, trailing only Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden’s 70%.
Over the past five years, e-commerce in Belgium has skyrocketed. In 2019, consumers spent a record $11.4 billion online with Flanders spending $6 billion online to Wallonia’s $5.2 billion. Overall, this represents 27% growth over the previous year.
Currently there are 48,181 webshops/merchants in Belgium (end of 2020) representing an increase of 65%. Compare this to +21% in 2019 with a total of 29,231 webshops and +18% in 2018 with a total of 24,254 webshops. Mostly micro (< 100,000 Euro revenue) and small (100,000-1,000,000 Euro revenue) merchants.
Demand for e-commerce platform services is strong, particularly since the pandemic of 2020. However, the need to tailor offerings according to local laws, culture, and in two languages (French and Dutch), combined with a small population, make Belgium a somewhat more difficult market for those entering the EU market via the e-commerce segment. On the other hand, there is cross border opportunity. Dutch and French eCommerce platforms have had respectively limited success in the Dutch-speaking northern part of the country and French-speaking southern part of the country.
Belgium’s ICT labor supply is seriously lagging. It has a low output of graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Shortages in these fields could become a major barrier to growth and innovation, with scarcities already emerging for certain functions including shortages of qualified ICT experts such as application developers.
Internet security is also lagging in Belgium. In a ranking compiled by Rapid7, an internet security company, Belgium has the least secure networks among the 50 sample countries surveyed. Polled Belgian SME companies with no CIO report ‘being of little interest to cyber-criminals’ and ‘having no valuable information needing to be secured’ as reasons for their lack of initiative securing their networks. This position is slowly changing as awareness develops and global cyber criminality attacks, such as WannaCry, expand.
Source: World Integrated Trade Solutions and the European Commission’s Digital Economy & Society Index (Information and communication technology (ICT) refers to both different types of communications networks and the technologies used in them. The ICT sector combines manufacturing and services industries whose products primarily fulfil or enable the function of information processing and communication by electronic means, including transmission and display.)
Best prospects include:
- Unified security management and software
- Consulting services
- Cloud securing services
- eCommerce enabling turnkey solutions.
Smart Cities initiatives in Belgium
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