ECONOMY

Greek infotech initiative earns high marks from EU

The e-business forum, created two years ago by the Ministry of Development, has been assessed by the European Commission as one of the most successful public programs in the area of information technology. The Commission, in cooperation with experts from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) assessed more than 150 national and regional initiatives promoting the use of information technology and communications by small and medium-sized enterprises. Yesterday in Brussels, 19 of these initiatives – four from the United Kingdom, two each from Spain, Holland, Ireland and Germany, and one each from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, France, Austria and Greece – were presented as the best European examples of public policy promoting the use of IT and electronic business transactions. All these policies were judged to have clear aims and adequate implementation mechanisms. The e-business forum was presented by Development Ministry Secretary-General Yiannis Kalogirou. Kalogirou also took part in a roundtable discussion on European e-business policies. When it set up the e-business forum, the development ministry aimed at creating a sort of permanent working body linking the government with businesses and research centers. Currently, more than 300 small and medium-sized enterprises and university research centers take part in the forum. This is despite the fact that the idea of e-business took a hit when, two years ago, «new economy» stocks started collapsing worldwide. In spite of dire predictions about its future, electronic trading has slowly but steadily increased since then, despite the fact that most of the hype is gone. The e-business forum has created 14 working groups dealing with various aspects of the digital economy and having essentially an advisory role. So far five open conferences have taken place in Athens and Thessaloniki and more are scheduled in other Greek cities. The e-business forum has conceived and promoted programs enabling very small companies to get online connections and training them in the use of the Internet as a business tool, using IT systems in business restructuring, the production of digital content and the creation of online markets. The e-business forum conducts three annual surveys on the use of information technology and the Internet in Greece. The first survey, with a sample of 6,500, is directed at the general population; the second, with a sample of 1,800, targets small and medium enterprises; and the third targets IT executives in the top 500 Greek companies. The e-business forum has its own website (www.ebusinessforum.gr), which registers over 7,000 hits monthly. The forum’s operation is overseen by the Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Industry and is funded by the state Information Society Operational Program.