Digital plan is getting facelift to avoid mistakes of the past

Digital Strategy, the government’s plan for the expansion of new technologies and multimedia, has been delayed for six months so it can be substantially revised. The project for the 2007-2013 period was presented last summer and was set to be approved by the government in early 2006. Along the way, though, the officials responsible for its drafting realized that it should describe in detail how Digital Strategy would achieve aims such as the strengthening of broadband connections, the broad use of electronic media for state services and the use of the Internet for tenders and procurements. Officials also realized from the experience of other European states which had drafted similar plans in the last couple of years that the contribution of foreign experts who have participated in such projects was essential. Consequently, powerful technology groups have located and brought some of these experts to Greece. These experts will examine the options and help formulate a well-rounded and timely policy. The final text – which officials estimate could be so copious that it could be bound into book form – will also describe the strategy through which the goals of the plan will be met. Government officials say that in the last couple of decades most information technology projects had remained unfinished as the state followed a disastrous policy. Public corporations would announce they required an «integrated IT system» and they would receive the funds but they never delivered a technological system through which substantial services would be provided to citizens. The vast majority of projects were never fully realized while only a few actually led to useful services for people dealing in transactions with the state. In the Digital Strategy project the process is reversed. Services are emphasized over projects in each agency. If any state corporations require funds they must describe the service that will benefit citizens with the completion of the IT projects. This plan is the backbone of the country’s technology policy model. At the same time the government is working on a new model for the promotion, assessment and funding of research. The delay in the announcement of this particular model could be linked with the various interests (in universities and in companies) which share hundreds of millions of euros today without any innovative product or service being created. In the context of the EU-subsidized Fourth Community Support Framework (CSF), the way in which IT projects will be realized is also under revision. The failure to monitor and realize projects in the Third CSF – only a few have been delivered to date and, due to these failures, the risk of losing funds is very real – led to the decision to set up a central mechanism. Also, decisionmakers wanted to form a new and less bureaucratic institutional framework.