Public servants admit IT illiteracy

Computers are plentiful in the public sector, but there is a shortage of employees with the skills to use them, according to a study by the Observatory for Information Society. The survey focused on the use of informatics and communication technologies and found that public servants have access to computers but do not use them, particularly in the case of those in executive posts. And while they acknowledge the importance of these technologies in public administration, they themselves report that the public sector does little to encourage staff to use them, while there are many problems in acquiring the necessary operating skills. Presented at the ICT Forum in Athens, the study showed that virtually all executives in central public administration (92 percent) have access to computers, but that they are underused and civil servants are not happy with their e-skills. They say their training is of poor quality while their satisfaction with the seminars organized by the state is «low.» Ignoring experts At the same time, although most public sector information technology professionals have been trained, their skills have not been updated to a satisfactory degree. To tackle the problems arising in the most rapid and effective way, the IT professionals suggest that an improvement is required in the knowledge level of computer users, along with equipment upgrading and greater flexibility in procuring hardware and software. Most IT experts say they play a very small part in decision making with regard to informatics issues in their enterprise. At an executive level, the vast majority own a computer and have a personal e-mail account, but they rarely use them as their own skills lag behind those of their staff. This is attributed to the age factor (71 percent are over 55) as well as a lack of adequate training in, familiarization with and experience of new technologies. Lastly, the survey reveals that young employees find public administration to be overly bureaucratic and seem more open to changes, compared with executives who have a more positive view of the «citizen-centered» nature of public services.