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Europe is not far away

26.05.2021 2 Min Read
Europe is not far away

Public opinion polls conducted in recent years clearly show the positive attitude of the Georgian population towards European and North Atlantic integration. At the same time, for the last two decades, the Georgian authorities have always confirmed the country's aspirations towards European institutions. Moreover, the current government has loudly stated that the country is preparing to apply for EU membership by 2024. There is an expectation that this promise was made in advance coordination with European partners, which increases the expectation of a positive outcome.


One of the most effective tools for rapprochement with the EU is the Eastern European Partnership political initiative, which aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the EU member states and their six eastern neighbors: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The Eastern Partnership platform, on the one hand, enables countries to join efforts to move closer to European institutions, on the other hand, is an effective tool for the EU to assess countries' progress and plan appropriate policies.


At the same time, the European institutions are actively monitoring the population of the Partnership member states and their attitudes towards both European integration and these institutions themselves. Since 2016, ACT has been actively cooperating with international organizations and monitoring public opinion in the Eastern Partnership countries. One such study was conducted in the spring of 2021, the results of which allow us to draw interesting conclusions about the attitudes and preferences of the population, as well as the different picture in these six countries.


63% of Georgia's adult population is positive about the EU


According to a survey conducted by ACT in all six Eastern Partnership countries in March 2021, the majority of Georgia's adult population (aged 15 and older) is positive towards the EU and, as it turns out, Positive attitude of Georgian population is the highesе among the six Eastern Partnership countries. Interestingly, the number of neutrals is not small either (35%), while only 1% evaluate this institution negatively.


What is your attitude towards the European Union? (%)


Source: Eastern Partnership Public Opinion Survey, 

Sampling Size - 6000 Respondents, March 2021, ACT

 

The majority of Georgia's adult population (76%) trust the EU, regardless of whether they like the institution Interestingly, there are even more people who may not like this European institution, although the fact is, they still trust it. In this regard, the level of trust in the European Union is the highest among the population of Georgia.


The results of the public opinion poll in the Eastern Partnership countries have already been heard in Brussels, at the Eastern Partnership and EU headquarters. It is also planned that by 2024, ACT and its international partners will provide Brussels with the results of a survey of the population of all six countries each spring. Ultimately, time will tell the results of the Eastern Partnership countries in fulfilling their commitments to the European institutions.









Confidence in the EU (%)

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19.05.2021

When entire country was impatiently waiting for WHO authorization on Sinopharm vaccine, that was exactly when we decided to conduct another study which would clarify reality related to vaccination among Tbilisi residents and enabled us to compare collected data with the picture received 2 months ago. May in this maze, we would be able to have better understanding what Tbilisi residents think about vaccination and identify their readiness to get vaccinated, to find out what happens to us if we continue moving forward at this pace. 

Whole world today tries to cope with the Coronavirus with the only weapon available – vaccine. This fight entered active phase and based on international research center Bloomberg, more than 1,48 billion doses of vaccines have been distributed in 176 countries all over the world. This means that approximately 24.5 million citizens get vaccinated a day. [1]


Source of information for Tbilisi residents 

In order to identify attitudes towards vaccination among Tbilisi residents, research and consulting company ACT conducted two studies before the country got its first batch of vaccine (in February) and 2 months later (in April). [3] It is interesting to see what were expectations of our citizens and what is going on today, when vaccination has started.


Unlike the study conducted in February, awareness level of Tbilisi residents in regard with vaccination increased by 33% in April. This time around, 70% of citizens reported on being sufficiently informed about Coronavirus vaccination and expressed readiness to make a decision. Even though main sources of information remained the same in both studies: internet, television and friends/family, the second inquiry showed slight increase (by 6%) in case of television (total of 67%) and 11% increase when naming friend/family (total of 26%).


If we have a look at age groups, we will discover that 80% of 55+ citizens prefer television as a source of information, while internet is number one choice for 87% of 18-34 age group. it is quite interesting that rate of listing friends and family as reliable source of information equally increased in all age groups, which is presumably result of recommendations provided by vaccinated citizens.


Main barrier against vaccination 


The majority of Tbilisi residents expect that their turn to get vaccinated will be in 2022 and expectations have slightly changed compared to the previous wave. 79% of Tbilisi residents believe that vaccination undoubtedly is the only way to improve epidemiological situation.


Readiness of citizens to get vaccinated increased by 7% compared to the previous wave and now 45% of Tbilisi residents are ready or is certain to get vaccinated. It is interesting that readiness to get vaccinated is most actively expressed among citizens that belong to 35-54 age group (48%) and almost every second citizen in this age group is ready to get vaccinated. However, regardless of this slight increase, 44% of respondents still hesitate (either undetermined to get a vaccine or against vaccine) and main reason they provide is overall distrust towards vaccines and possible side effects.


It is also worth mentioning that compared to the previous wave, fear of possible side effects increased by 6% and reached 38%. On one side, it is logical and connected to a few cases when vaccination procedure resulted in drastic deterioration of patient’s health or death both worldwide and in Georgia. However, on the other hand, it seems to be arguable because in some cases connection between these two facts has not been confirmed and everything is based on opinions and presumptions. Death of a newly vaccinated citizen in Georgia soon after the vaccination process started in the country, was directly connected to vaccination process and the specific vaccine. Afterwards, investigation that started against the doctors involved in this specific case revealed signs of belated medical response, but delayed and ambiguous communication of this fact could not fully obviate objections towards the established perception. That was the reason why the majority of respondents abstained from getting Astra-Zeneca vaccine.


As the world experience demonstrates, one of the important factors that assist continuous process of vaccination is extensive information campaign and mobilization. Israel is the perfect example – this country managed to fully vaccinate 56,3 percent (5,09 million) of its citizens and become a green zone in five months. Israel started vaccination campaign as early as December 19 of 2020 when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vaccinated on live TV and led the information campaign where he answered every question Israeli citizens had in regard with vaccination in video clips. In less than two weeks, more than 10% of citizens had already had their first shot of vaccine.


About preferred vaccines


Our country uses 3 types of vaccine: American Pfizer (since March 30), British Astra-Zeneca (from March 15) and Chinese Sinopharm (since May 4). It is interesting to have a look at attitudes of Tbilisi residents in regard with each vaccine. It turned out that:


The most trusted vaccine is still Pfizer - 27%, followed by Astra-Zeneca – 15% and Moderna – 15%. The least trusted vaccines are Sputnik – 4% and Sinopharm – 4%.


Number of respondents who sharply refuse to get Astra-Zeneca vaccine increased by 14% compared to the previous wave. Barriers against getting Astra-Zeneca include possible side effects (33%) and lack of information (26%) in case of Chinese vaccine. Regardless, it’s a fact that as early as on May 4, before Sinopharm was authorized by WHO (this vaccine got authorization on May 7), the vaccination booking platform almost had no free spots. Such a big demand on Sinopharm can be explained by two possible reasons: first – citizens were confident that Sinopharm would most likely get authorization and booked their appointment in advance and second – authorized or no, it was most important for citizens to see vaccination process getting started and return to ordinary life. Number of citizens registered to get the said vaccine is 25000 as of today. Booking portal can no longer handle the traffic, demand on vaccine is higher than the available limit which once again confirms readiness of certain part of citizens. They realize that vaccination is the only way to survive and they may waste time waiting for the preferred vaccine. Time, that is too valuable in the pandemic.


In search of the way out from the maze 

We asked Tbilisi residents to tell us whose opinions do they take into consideration most of all. The following groups were identified:

  1. Health professionals - 49%
  2. Familiar, competent health professional - 27%
  3. Family/relatives/friends - 19%


Compared to the previous wave, share of considering what health professionals recommend decreased by 10%, while share of taking opinions provided by family/relatives/friends into consideration has increased by 11% which once again confirms the importance of increasing number of vaccinated citizens. It turns out, that increased number of vaccinated acquaintances automatically increases number of those who are eager to get vaccinated.


As the study demonstrates, citizens made up their mind to do pre-vaccination preventive diagnostics and be ready for the vaccination procedure. 90% of respondents plan on visiting immunologist, 86% plans on doing blood test, while 83% of respondents want to get coagulation test to check the blood clotting system.


Based on the study, we can conclude that attitudes of Tbilisi residents towards vaccination have changed after 2 months since the process started. We see increased readiness of citizens to get vaccinated and an effort to find the way out from vaccination maze: get vaccinated with available vaccines, do pre-vaccination procedures, retrieve information from different sources on their own not to lose what matters the most – the only chance to return back to normal life.

 

Author: Tatia Bregvadze

Analyst, ACT Research

 

 

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/

[2] https://stopcov.ge/

[3] შემთხვევითი შერჩევის პრინციპით პირველ ტალღაზე თებერვალში ჩატარდა 414, ხოლო მეორე ტალღის ფარგლებში,  აპრილში – 401 სატელეფონო ინტერვიუ.

10.05.2021

Crisis caused by new Coronavirus accelerated pace of digital transformation even more and forced businesses to include remote work and development of e-commerce into the “agenda”. The other side of the market – consumers remained without digital influence. E-commerce became a replacement or filler of physical shopping for them and presumably, these changes will make deep roots in their behavior and will continue in post-pandemic period as well. However, background of these processes is even more interesting – did every business mange to timely and properly respond to digital challenges, what do international statistics say and what is the vision – did the pandemic landscape of retail trade give businesses time and resources to adapt?


International trends – are businesses ready for digitalization? 

It’s been a long time since change in consumer behavior and their readiness to engage in e-commerce processes became one of the main focus of studies conducted by international organizations. For example, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNICTAD) annually measures B2C e-commerce index, which combines levels of internet consumption by individuals, share of protected internet servers and data on owning accounts in financial institutions. Similarly, International Tele-communication Union (ITU) offers information and communication technologies (ITC) development index [1], which is also oriented on online shopping behaviors of consumers and channels utilized in this process. This list also includes statistical data gathered by Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


If we have a look at e-commerce report called “E-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic” conducted by OECD in October of 2020, we will clearly see that online commerce is very quickly developing. According to the report, retail sales (orders) made through e-mail and internet in EU member countries increased by 30% in April of 2020 compared to the previous year. Trends are similar in USA, where e-commerce orders increase by 14%-16% (see chart N1). The said report also highlights dynamic development of e-commerce in Europe, Northern America and Asia-Oceania regions in the first half of 2020.


[1] The ICT Development Index (IDI)


Source: OECD, E-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020, October. Calculations are based on EUROSTAT statistics. 

UNICTAD report “COVID-19 and E-commerce” published in summer of 2020 shows quite an interesting picture, incorporating experience of 257 companies from 23 less developed countries [1]. Some of the identified trends truly deserve our attention:


  • Fully digital business models (60% of third party online marketplaces) turned out to be more resistant to the pandemic than e-commerce companies that appeared relatively less prepared for new challenges.

  • Use of social media and number of web-pages definitely increased in focus countries. Rapid growth of these sales channels started in the beginning of the pandemic crisis. In this direction, Facebook platform turned out to be particularly important.

  • The pandemic intensified problems previously existing in the ecosystem of e-commerce. Delays in supply chains and logistic processes, absence of internet access appeared to be main challenge for more than 60% of respondents.

  • As noted by more than half of inquired respondents, improvement of e-commerce development policy and strategy is the top priority and needs to be actively handled.

  • The pandemic challenges affected investment capacities of companies in ICT direction. Respectively, company representatives believe that out of all support programs offered by their governments, update of the national e-commerce strategy and its promotion in the society is the most important one.


[1] These countries mostly cover Africa and Asia – Pacific Oceania regions.


Source: UNICTAD, COVID-19 and its impact on e-commerce of businesses, 2020


ACT’s role – experience from even broader geographic area 

The 2020 pandemic and economic crisis enabled ACT through cooperation with different countries and international organizations (EBRD, World Bank, UNDP, USAID) in various projects to contribute globally in increasing sustainability of business sector and identifying pandemic channels affecting them. The said projects enabled us to study e-commerce development issues in focus regions (Caucasus, Western Balkans, South-East Europe, Central Asia and South and East Mediterranean) and do a research on the impact of the pandemic on businesses. As expected, business operating in focus regions shows different types of readiness for digitalization (chart 3). However, regardless of such different results, it is important to mention the overall attitude inquired respondents had in common – small and medium-size businesses have a desire to involve in e-commerce but they hesitate because of lack or complete absence of information and digital tools.


Source: ACT Research, 345 SMEs inquired in Caucasus, 827 SMEs inquired in the Western Balkan region 


Our team had a chance to additionally study challenges of small and medium business operating in Central Asia, South-East Europe and SEMED countries during the pandemic within the scopes of the EBRD-sponsored project “Impact of COVID-19 on small and medium businesses”. As a part of the given study, we asked respondents representing small and medium-size businesses what percentage share of the company’s sales switched to online platforms after the pandemic started. Overall picture is also very interesting, as declared by the majority of small and medium businesses from the listed regions, sales did not switch to online shopping at all, while only a very small part of companies managed full digitalization. Businesses operating in South-East Europe (chart 4) appeared to be the most prepared for such transformations, this can be explained by the fact that logistic services were already well-developed and organized in this region and already established practice of e-commerce.


Source: ACT Research, 570 SMEs inquired in SEMED, 598 SMEs inquired in Central Asia and 184 SME inquired in South-East European region 


Unplanned changes with long-term results 

The new Coronavirus pandemic turned digital development into inevitable reality. When searching for answers, we clearly saw that this seemingly simple way is actually quite complex process and to pass this road, only “desire to digitalize” is not enough. Businesses had to cope with all the problems which already accompanied the process of switching to a new platform: absence of relevant experience, lack of resources or infrastructure. Even though supporting business became main migraine for every government, the majority (more than 50%) of businesses participating in different studies unanimously admit that unfortunately, their government, when working on development of priority sectors, left this part behind and online commerce still remains as unsolved issue.


It’s a fact – digitalization has not entered our lives just temporarily. These are more unplanned changes which will bring prolonged, long-term results.



Author: Lika Goderdzishvili

Portfolio lead, development consulting



26.04.2021

In 2002, for the purpose to promote books and reading, UNESCO started a large-scale project – “World Book Capital” when one specific city is nominated each year to be designated as the world book capital. On April 23 of 2021, this honorable status was designated to our capital city and consequently, Tbilisi will turn into world book capital for a year.


We all agree that during the world pandemic, Coronavirus to some extent helped us to push forward topics that are top priorities for us. Each of us had different ways to balance aggravated stress level by means of relatively pleasant activities, however, the choice was limited by the pandemic. Fortunately, reading books is on the small list of activities which, together with gaining knowledge, is a great way to relax.


If we say that the pandemic changed life for many of us, logically the question arises – did it make in influence on our habit of reading books?! In reality, did this suddenly spared time pushed our society to read more or in contrary, elevated stress turned us into passive readers?!


“Consistently studying change in the behavior of readers is well-established practice all over the world. Georgian market also needs such constant monitoring, as collected information acts as a foundation for right development of the book market. This topic is particularly important during the pandemic, which made significant changes in publishing industry” –declares executive director of Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association, Tinatin Beriashvili.


In compliance with a joint request of Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association and House of Writers, ACT conducted a large-scale study on the Georgian book market, certain tendencies have been identified based on the study results.


  • Reading books once a year, once in 2-3 months or every day 

According to the study conducted in February of 2021, our society is divided into two exactly equal groups: half of respondents who managed read fictional or non-fictional literature in 2020 and the other half, who could not read even a single book throughout the year.


Study results also clarify that more than half (56%) of readers read books at least once a week, among them – 19% managed to read intensively – every single day; almost one fourth of respondents reported on reading quite passively – once in two-three months at maximum. Number of such passive readers is even bigger in regional cities compared to Tbilisi.


It was of course interesting to get an answer on one of the main questions and find out whether the frequency of reading changed during the pandemic. As it turns out, the pandemic did not make any impact on reading habits of half of our reader respondents, while one third of respondents “blamed” pandemic for reading more frequently. 15% of respondents noted that unfortunately, they can spare even less time to read books.


Readers manage to read averagely 13 books throughout a year (the list starts with Georgian and translated literature leaving books published in foreign language in the minority), however more than half of residents (55%) report on reading 1-6 books. The study tracked some differences between those living in the capital city and regions – number of books read by Tbilisi residents is two times higher than number of books regional residents read during a year.


  • Favorite in locked space – fiction 

It is interesting to find out what is major factor when selecting the book to read? How popular the book is or something else? 46% of inquired respondents are guided by recommendations of friends and family when selecting a book, 42% of respondents focus on the contents and annotation of the book while 31% of readers make choice on their favorite authors.


As the study demonstrated, a vast majority (86,5%) of respondents prefer to read fiction mainly, while 13.5% of respondents love reading non-fictional literature. The most actively read categories of fiction over the past 1 year include modern literature, classic literature and detective/horror/mystics. As for non-fiction, readers are mostly inclined to books covering historical, political and cultural thematic.


“The pandemic did not affect my choice of fiction I read” – days 9 out of ten inquired respondents. However, the pandemic drove the remaining 10% of readers towards science fiction/fantasy/utopic and detective/horror/mysticism.


  • Where do we read, where do we buy 

It is quite logical that bookshops are prevalent among all other places where books are sold. Before the pandemic, 75% of readers would visit them, followed by the attendance rate on book fairs (18%). As for libraries, our respondents were even less active in visiting libraries. Not to say anything about the pandemic period, 77% of respondents did not have experience of visiting libraries even before, which they mostly explain with lack of time and need.


We were interested to find out what respondents think about updating their personal library in near future. According to the results, 14% of respondents are less likely or completely exclude the possibility of buying books this year. However, it’s not that bad, because 6 out of ten readers (64%) are still ready to visit places where books are sold, half of them (31%) are sure of it.


Regardless of the turbulent zone we are all in now, fortunately, books are still in demand and readers still intend on buying them. As it turns out, this new pace of life did not make any significantly negative impact on reading habits. However, it is impossible not to notice that half of residents cannot read books at all. This makes it even clearer and obvious, that habit of reading books needs to be encouraged and promoted.


As noted by consultant of international projects at House of Writers – Natia Lursmanashvili – “House of Writers is a living organism and publishers as well as readers are its beneficiaries. Accordingly, change of their behavior over the recent years (including the influence of the pandemic) is directly connected to defining future strategy of the organization”. 


* Survey was conducted through random sampling among 1000 adult (16+) residents of Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Telavi, Gori and Zugdidi in February of 2021. Utilized method – FTF interview. Statistical error of data does not exceed 4.4%.  


Author: Ketevan Mamadashvili

Analyst


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