ECONOMY

Technopolis – Acropolis

Greece hopes to turn from Europe’s IT laggard to the high-tech hub of the Balkans with a new technology park, to be built by 2009 and which will host 180 Greek and foreign software developing and consulting companies. With Greece having the EU’s lowest Internet penetration rate, the government is eager to support such projects and will put up 15 million euros toward the plan being designed by Technopolis-Acropolis. «Greek IT lacks identity. It is not a known exporter but it has the potential to be, since all this requires is human resources and we have plenty of that,» the company’s CEO, Nicholas Afxentiadis, told Reuters in an interview. Some 134 Greek and foreign Athens-based IT and telecoms providers are behind Technopolis-Acropolis, in charge of building a 27,500-acre (110,000-square-meter) technology park in the northern Athens area of Afidnes. The contribution of IT business to the country’s economy was a low 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) last year, with analysts attributing this to an aging population and comparatively low usage penetration rates of personal computers. But the government is struggling to enliven the sector. In October it revealed plans to invest 184 million euros ($219.9 million) next year to boost broadband services in a bid to increase Internet use from an estimated 2 percent now to 7 percent of the population by 2008. «The new high-tech park will house IT players who are interested in expanding in the greater area of Southeastern Europe and the Middle East,» Afxentiadis said. He said the park, built at an old clay mine half an hour away from the Greek capital, would also concentrate IT research centers and local and foreign university IT postgraduate departments. The new park is also expected to employ about 7,000 people. Afxentiadis said the government will subsidize 9 percent of the project’s total cost, which is expected to reach 172 million euros, while Technopolis-Acropolis hopes for more subsidies from EU coffers. Technopolis is studying several business plans, including joint development of the park with a real estate firm, he added. Construction work will start early in 2007, so that the new park begins operations by the end of 2009. (Reuters)