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ISOC-Bulgaria: Changing the Way Bulgaria Enters the Internet Era

by Veni Markovski

The Internet Society-Bulgaria is an organization that has influence over the development of the Bulgarian legislature, information technology (IT) policy, and the Internet within the country. What it has achieved so far is notable.

In 1999 ISOC-Bulgaria helped win a case in the Supreme Court against the proposed licensing of Internet service providers. The case was the first public appearance of ISOC-Bulgaria as an organization that was not afraid to protect basic human rights, including access to the Internet and freedom of information exchange and Web site publishing. The case became a milestone not only for the development of the Internet Society-Bulgaria but also for the development of the Internet in the country. Until then, only a few people were using the Net in Bulgaria. Since that time, the number of Internet users has increased dramatically, extending to nearly 10 percent of the population. Soon political leaders began to see that the Internet is a hot topic, and some of them (www.gergiovden.com) even made their first appearance in public on the Web.

In 2000, ISOC-Bulgaria helped organize the first Internet Fiesta, bringing on board thousands of people to make them understand the value of the Internet. That same year, the Bulgarian president became a member of the international Internet Society, actively participating in ICANN at-large membership discussions on behalf of the Noncommercial Domain Name Holders Constituency.

This year has also seen developments. In 2001, ISOC-Bulgaria helped organize the second Internet Fiesta, this time with parallel conference with guests from around the world. The Bulgarian prime minister and members of the parliament joined ISOC and the Bulgarian prime minister brought computer rooms to half of Bulgaria's high schools. Also in 2001, ISOC-Bulgaria worked with the Ministry of Telecommunications and parliament on the new telecommunications law, resulting in the legalization of VoIP (voice over IP) and exclusion from the monopoly of state-owned Bulgarian Telecom.

At ISOC-Bulgaria, all activities aim to provide a better Internet for more people. The goal is to bring the Internet to everyone, and so far ISOC-Bulgaria has realized moderate success. In the future in Bulgarian national parliament, ISOC-Bulgaria plans to have at least 15 ISOC members there.

Even more, ISOC-Bulgaria is actively involved in the preparation of new programs for IT development of the main political parties in the country. We see ISOC-Bulgaria as the real leader of the Internet revolution in Bulgaria. We want to make it possible for every Bulgarian to have access to the Net and to be able to communicate with every other person worldwide, without cultural, lingustic, or other barriers.

We envision Bulgaria as an IT-developed country-perhaps even the Silicon Valley of the former Soviet bloc. Hopefully, ISOC-Bulgaria will be there.

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