IT deal with Microsoft

The government yesterday signed an agreement with Microsoft, the world’s biggest software company, to establish IT development centers in an effort to boost the country’s competitiveness. The agreement, signed in Athens by Microsoft’s Chairman Bill Gates and Greece’s Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, calls for the creation of centers to provide IT and business development skills. «From being a laggard, Greece in a short space of time is fast becoming a leader in the use of new technologies,» Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said at the signing ceremony: «Investment in advanced technology… is a prerequisite for a break with the past, which is something the country needs, and for it to be a knowledge leader.» Software-related employment is about 30 percent of all IT employment in Greece and accounts for about 100,000 jobs. Total government and private sector IT spending is about -2 billion and is seen as growing about 7 percent annually through to 2011, according to IT research group IDC. Greece’s Internet penetration has risen from 0.1 percent in 2004 to about 10 percent of the population currently but the country is still at the back of the class when compared to its European peers. Making Greece’s bureaucracy more user-friendly is also one of the long-term goals behind the centers. «I am pleased to see the commitment with our partners in Greece. It is this type of innovation, partnerships with universities and close relationships with the government that can help drive things,» Gates said. Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos said that in Greece there are many young people, entrepreneurs and professionals who stand out because of their hard work, creativity and consistency. «The line separating people today is that between state-funded, stagnated Greece and the Greece of creativity and initiatives,» he added. Gates also inaugurated the Microsoft Innovation Center on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue in central Athens, at a ceremony attended by Karamanlis and Alogoskoufis. The prime minister said that the center would be the operations center for significant institutional cooperation aimed at bolstering innovation in Greece by making full use of the potential of new technologies. (Reuters, Kathimerini)