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 (%)
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. 
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).  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:
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
 შემთხვევითი შერჩევის პრინციპით პირველ ტალღაზე თებერვალში ჩატარდა 414, ხოლო მეორე ტალღის ფარგლებში, აპრილში – 401 სატელეფონო ინტერვიუ.
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?
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 , 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.
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 . Some of the identified trends truly deserve our attention:
 These countries mostly cover Africa and Asia – Pacific Oceania regions.
Source: UNICTAD, COVID-19 and its impact on e-commerce of businesses, 2020
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
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
The Coronavirus pandemic accelerated our digital transformation. Digital solution becomes more and more demanded in everyday life, main expectation each of us has is opportunity to carry out behaviors remotely. COVID-19 changed established perception of the work, education, medical service, social interactions, entertainment and relaxation, during the pandemic every service or product associated with all those aforementioned needs have been re-assessed according to their ability to keep us at home.
The impact pandemic made on online services changes in the long run and will never get back the world as we knew before.
Sopho Bukia is a successful journalist whose life was changed before the pandemic when her twins were born, babies were not even one-year old when the pandemic started, Sopho had to spend lockdown days in a locked apartment with her babies.
“We were completely isolated and fully relied on Glovo and Wolt delivery couriers. They became our main connection to the outside world. When it’s babies’ bed time and you discover that you forgot to buy milk for them, delivery man with a moped becomes the superhero delivering the most precious thing to you” – says Sopho.
Sopho managed to squeeze in the normal ritual for new parents – running into grocery stores and pharmacies with babies or in turns, without babies when they are asleep and coming back stocked up for a week, in just one gadget which she uses for several types of services: delivery service apps for products, child care items and toys, medical app for consultation with a pediatrician and purchasing medications from the pharmacy, taxi ride service for the nanny.
Research and Consulting company ACT was interested to find out how has behavior of Tbilisi residents changed similar to Sopho’s behavior in terms of online services. According to the study conducted last month, every third Tbilisi resident activated use of digital banking services (online transfers, utility payments, ordering a card, etc.), 22% of respondents order ready-made food more often than before the pandemic, while 20% of respondents now shop clothing and shoes online more often than before. In addition, young respondents in 18-34 age group use online food apps most frequently, overall, every second young resident orders food online.
At this point, Tbilisi residents are less passive in purchasing groceries online. 83% of elder generations do not use online supermarkets at all, the majority of inquired respondents buy groceries in a traditional way – supermarket or corner shop. A small portion (13%) of young respondents from 18-34 age group started using online pharmacies, but digital version of this service does not beat personal visits to the pharmacies.
It is interesting to find out what motivates consumers to go out to purchase groceries and medications, is this the possibility to select the product locally, check the assortment, or in case of medications – time factor or probability of getting recommendation from the pharmacy consultant. Providers of the said services can get answers to each of this question as a result of observing and studying consumers.
Before the pandemic, delivery service was considered as comfort service and part of people avoided paying for that service. This pandemic created the environment in which delivery services turned into everyday necessity from the luxury. During the isolation, in addition to food, online grocery shopping and delivery of medications/hygiene items from the pharmacy became important for consumers.
Increased demand on online services enabled startups operating in this field to achieve fast development – diversify service categories, expand – add staff and partner services of products and constantly improve offered services. All of those companies now study digitally active consumers to foresee what will be important tomorrow for them who avoids or cannot go out due to objective reasons.
Are online shopping behaviors caused by the pandemic sustainable?
According to the study, when the pandemic ends and Tbilisi residents will return to the ordinary life, they will still continue using digital banking products (94%) and ordering food online (86%). As for grocery shopping and medications, they plan on making personal visits to stores and pharmacies.
However, similar to Sopho, there are consumers who already see distinct advantages in having consistent behavior of shopping online: “I used to do grocery shopping after leaving the office before the pandemic started, I hardly remember that time, but it was what I did. And this was a terrible process – one store does not have any cottage cheese, another is out of bananas, third one is out of something else and so on. You have to visit so many places. Then you need to take all these bags to the car. The same applies to the pharmacy. I’m loving the app that searches every product in one pharmacy. Lockdown or not, I will always use Glovo, Wolt, Ekimo apps. I just can’t live without them”.
Sopho and part of consumers still have problems when using online services such as delayed delivery, problematic system when curriers have often call consumers to check the address, incomplete order or problems in the payment system, but in this changed reality, necessity to be cautious about health and have more comfort make consumers see even more benefits in those services and wait for improvement of digital “switch”.
Before that, we continue protecting ourselves in the biggest fortress – home. Similar to others, Sopho tries to balance a busy day between work and parenting: ”I’m at home and not at home at the same time. I say goodbye in the morning exactly like before leaving to work, then I close my door and work till the evening. As a background noise, I hear their voices. I got used to the fact that they are behind the wall”.
Digital transformation goes on quickly and similar to centuries ago, humans are inclined to squeeze in everything we need to feel safer and more comfortable in this fortress.