Belgium
ICT Services

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

Overview

Belgium 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 2018 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 2016 was assessed at $13.5 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 2020.  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.  In April 2015, the Belgian Federal government launched the "Digital Belgium" Agenda for Belgium, including 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. 

In 2016, 39% of Belgian citizens made use of the internet for e-Government services and 29% sent in online forms.  These rates are above the EU averages of 32% and 22% respectively.  Despite its good overall ranking, Belgium recognizes that is still has to improve its online public services.

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 2016, 78% of Belgians used the internet at least once a week, with 44% of Belgians accessing the internet via a mobile device.  The latter is well above the EU average of 37%. 

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 2016, consumers spent a record $9.2 Billion online with Flanders spending $5 billion online to Wallonia’s $4.2 billion.  Overall, this represents 10% growth over the previous year.

Currently there are 15,000 Belgian shops online, up 26% since 2015.  Only 15% of these shops have an online turnover above $100,000.  Furthermore, 3% of online shops account for 86% of the turnover including: Amazon, 2dehands and Office.com.  Approximately 23% of Belgian companies are engaged in e-commerce, which is significantly higher than the EU average of 14%.  However, only 13% of Belgian SMEs (to the EU average of 7.5%) sell beyond the country’s borders into other European countries.

The fastest growing market segment, if not the largest, is online grocery shopping, which is up 165% since 2015.  This led to a growth spurt of supermarket e-commerce with Delhaize, Colruyt and Carrefour, the three largest supermarket chains, all rolling out their own platforms.  In March 2017, Amazon launched Amazon Pantry in Belgium.  Toys are also very popular, with 29% of Belgians purchasing games online in 2016. 

Demand for e-commerce platform services is strong.  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.  In 2015, 46.1% of enterprises with job vacancies requiring specialized ICT skills reported problems in filling these positions.  In 2017, over 50% of STEM jobs remained vacant for over six months.  For the ICT workforce alone, this shortfall is projected to rise from about 8,000 persons in 2012, to 30,000 in 2020. 

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.
 

ICT Equipment & Services 2016 2017 2018 2019
(estimated)
Total Market Size 12,506 13,500 13,500 14,400
Total Local Production 8,046 8,500 8,500 8,900
Total Exports 65.415 66,000 64,000 64,200
Total Imports 69,875 71,000 72,500 69,700
Imports from the U.S. 57% 58% 59% 59%
Exchange Rate: 1 USD 1.1069 1.1297 1.1810 1.1400

Unit: USD millions
Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports)

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 fulfill or enable the function of information processing and communication by electronic means, including transmission and display.)

Leading Sub-Sectors
Best prospects include:

  • Unified security management and software,
  • Consulting services
  • Cloud securing services,
  • VPN related products and services, and
  • eCommerce enabling turnkey solutions.

Web Resources
Top sited in Belgium 
Digital Belgium

Public services online in Belgium    

Smart Cities initiatives in Belgium
http://smartcity.bruxelles.be/en
https://stad.gent/smartcity-en
https://www.imec-int.com/en/articles/imec-collaborates-with-city-of-antwerp-and-flanders-to-establish-smart-city-living-lab


Upcoming trade shows
https://www.infosecurity.be/
http://www.infosecurityeurope.com/
http://www.smau.it/company/pages/home/
https://websummit.com/
http://www.cebit.de/