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The Warsaw Voice » Business » May 27, 2011
Business & Economy
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Driven by the Internet
May 27, 2011   
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Poland can be hardly regarded as an internet superpower at present, but the World Wide Web is expected to become the new driver of the Polish economy. Over the past several years Poland has owed its economic growth mostly to rapidly growing exports and domestic consumption, but online business may soon play a greater role.

A report released by The Boston Consulting Group in May predicts the value of Poland’s e-commerce will increase 14 percent annually for the next several years, about twice as fast as GDP. The internet will account for 8 percent of GDP growth in 2009-2015. The report also says e-commerce in 2015 will account for a larger part of GDP than the financial, energy or health care sector does at present. This prediction comes despite the finding that only about 60 percent of households have online access, much less than in Western Europe.

The growth of e-commerce in Poland is mainly due to consumption, shopping in particular. People in Poland have finally embraced online shopping and rather than just searching for product information and comparing prices, they buy online as well. The internet has become the predominant channel for buying airline tickets and the basic source of travel information that people use to buy trips. At the same time, over 20 percent of active bank accounts are managed via the internet, putting Poland ahead of all other countries in the region.

Research shows that Poles are a highly active group online. They surf the Net extensively for information and have topped European statistics in terms of the number of search engine queries per internet user. They also actively create and use free online content; Wikipedia in Polish is the second-largest language version in terms of the articles-to-population ratio.

Unlike individual users, Polish enterprises make only basic use of the internet and hardly ever use advanced internet tools to boost productivity. It thus comes as no surprise that compared with other OECD countries, Poland ranks very low in terms of internet use by businesses. Aside from the underdeveloped technical infrastructure, the poor standings are due to the relatively low online activity of public institutions and enterprises. This is expected to change, however, as the benefits of e-commerce become more obvious to the commercial sector.

While the growing e-commerce and IT sectors in Poland are welcome developments, Poland is still doing little to curb computer piracy. A recent survey by the IDC company, commissioned by the Business Software Alliance, found that 54 percent of software in use in Poland is illegal. In this respect, Poland comes in 23rd among the 27 EU member states. The result suggests that unless the situation improves, online business in Poland will flourish in part thanks to pirated software.
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