This study discusses the production and use of ICT in Belgium, and identifies its strengths and weaknesses in comparison with the neighbouring countries. It covers both ICT goods and services, noting that the production of services is almost seven times as high as the production of goods. In this study, the use of ICT is limited to their use as a production factor, but not as a consumption good. In the Belgian economy, ICT industries are characterized by their dynamism, with a high entry rate, a high labour productivity and a relatively strong profitability. Moreover, ICT services significantly contribute to foreign trade. ICT industries are closely linked with the Belgian economy. Compared to the neighbouring countries, however, ICT industries have a smaller share in the economy and a smaller share in the foreign trade of goods. Moreover, innovation in terms of patent applications is disappointing, and ICT capital has a relatively small and even diminishing contribution to economic growth. Within the Belgian ICT sector, telecommunications relatively stand out compared to the other ICT industries, with a relatively large share in the economy and services exports. They are the main user of ICT products, and can thus boost the development of ICT.
Information and communication technology (ICT) has become a significant economic activity in most industrialized countries as well as an important engine of innovation and changes in the rest of the economy. It has been recognized as one of the key factors boosting productivity growth and hence business sector competitiveness. Various initiatives have been recently adopted at regional, national and European levels in order to meet quickly the new challenges of ICT use and diffusion in Europe. A growing number of indicators are now available in order to assess the position of each country or region in terms of ICT development and to guide policy decisions in that field. The aim of this report is to provide a clear and succinct view of the relative development of ICT in Belgium by analyzing both the production and the diffusion of ICT in our economy 1 and to highlight the main weaknesses and strengths of the Belgian economy in that area. Even if the sector has been recently characterised by stock markets ups and downs and numerous bankruptcies, production of ICT goods and services has contributed significantly during the nineties to the growth of economic activity and employment in some industrialised countries as for instance in Anglo-saxon and Scandinavian countries. Has Belgian economic activity benefited from the boom in the ICT sector to the same extent as other industrialised countries? What kind of development can be expected in the future? These are the main questions addressed in the part of the report devoted to the analysis of the Belgian ICT production sector.