The story of the so-called “digital levy” (the new 2-6 percent tax on cell phones, tablets, computers etc) has highlighted the complete lack of any official strategy to help the digital technology sector to grow.
By blindly imposing a third-party levy – with no scientific approach to the issue – the government has opened a can of worms. Even Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas appeared concerned – days after signing the amendment for its introduction he has asked for a review.
This is not the first time the government has displayed a lack of coordination in its actions in sectors vital to the country’s digital transformation. Interior Minister Panos Skourletis recently countered Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, no less, regarding the development of major information technology projects. When Tsipras addressed a conference of the Federation of Hellenic Information Technology & Communications Enterprises (SEPE) on May 7, he announced four important IT projects, one of which concerned the online exchange of documents within the public administration. The project, budgeted at 15 million euros (with an option to raise this amount to 18 million), went up for public consultation on the same day.
A week later, Skourletis sent a circular to local authorities asking them to adopt the “Irida” online document exchange application developed by the Hellenic Air Force General Staff, which the Interior Ministry has installed for free and all entities were invited to utilize.
While many doubt the HAF General Staff’s capacity to install and support this application across Greece, this decision runs counter to the project jointly announced by Pappas and Administrative Reform Minister Olga Gerovasili; it was they who convinced Tsipras to announce this particular project, along with other government plans.
Another example of noncoordination was the sudden cancellation last December of the “e-Gov Now” project, aimed at unifying public sector IT systems toward their interoperability. According to a decision by Digital Policy General Secretary Stelios Rallis, the project “is not technologically timely” and its development “is not compatible with the National Digital Strategy.” This is a 7.4-million-euro project that eight private firms undertook following a September 2015 contract. After the first four project aspects, worth 300,000 euros, were implemented, e-Gov Now was frozen, to the wrath of Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis.