The technology agreement signed between the Greek government and Microsoft in Lisbon yesterday calls for the creation of an Innovation Center in Greece that will support academic research and the efforts of private software companies to provide competitive products. Microsoft will also provide public sector agencies with applications at a 20 percent discount. The agreement is one of several signed between Microsoft and European governments in Lisbon and during the previous two Government Leaders Forums organized by Microsoft in Europe. It is part of Microsoft’s ambitious scheme to help governments around the world with integrating their services. «Governments around the world tell us that to interoperate effectively they need a more structured approach to building information technology systems,» said Microsoft co-founder, main shareholder and chairman Bill Gates who, since relinquishing the job of company CEO, has taken that of Chief Software Architect. «Deploying an eGovernment Strategy will help governments improve productivity and service delivery through seamless interoperability – as well as dramatically help cut costs,» he added. Productivity losses by governments are estimated at 400 billion euros across all 25 European Union member-states. In the US, the losses are estimated at $843 billion (about 700 billion euros). In Greece, the innovation center will help academic researchers, software development firms and new IT companies with development of new products. State agencies will be assisted in providing e-government services to citizens. The agreement has a duration of four years. During that time, the state has the right to obtain all new Microsoft software versions at a discount. Civil servants will be able to use the software, free of charge, at home and can be trained in its use. «Our goal is to maximize the benefits for the state sector from its cooperation with Microsoft and other private companies. (The agreement) is a first step toward implementing the government’s digital strategy to take advantage of information and communications technologies throughout our economy and society. The goal of the Digital Strategy 2006-2013 is to provide digital services to enterprises, restructure the public sector and provide digital services to citizens. The agreement we signed today has several favorable clauses and provides for actions that will help a more efficient diffusion of technology in Greece,» said Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis.