Putting an end to paperwork nightmare

More than 1.4 billion pages are being digitized, covering an area of more than 152,000 sq.m.

Putting an end to paperwork nightmare

Greece has taken giant leaps in recent years in the bid to abolish paper in the public sector and the notorious inconveniences it created in transactions between citizens and state services.

And it stands to reason that digitization and all kinds of transactions between citizens and the state through the platform would be difficult to achieve if the state’s records remain on paper.

Indeed, the largest project in the history of the Greek state to digitize its paper archives is currently under way and it is estimated that in the next three years more than 1.4 billion pages will be changed into intangible form, which are currently stacked, throughout Greece, in ministries, the Single Social Security Entity (EFKA), Urban Planning Departments and courts.

“One of the big gaps that the Greek state has is that paper has not been digitized. […] A very, very large amount of money from the Recovery Fund is being directed to digitization, to make paper into information,” Minister of State and Digital Governance Kyriakos Pierrakakis recently said.

In order to understand the full extent of what the paper kingdom means, it is enough to consider that storing 100 million A4 pages – many of the documents to be digitized have a larger dimension – requires 40,000 cartons (40x30x25 cm) or 10,000 four-shelf sets of drawers and a surface area of 15,210 square meters.

Thus, the more than 1.4 billion pages to be digitized require more than 152,000 sq.m., a size that is understandable when one considers that the total built-up area of the planned government park on the PYRKAL premises occupies about 133,000 sq.m.

The calculations are modest, since they do not include records, mainly court records, which it has been decided, at this stage, not to digitize.

The digitization of the more than 1 billion pages not only involves scanning them, but also their easy categorization based on keywords (metadata) to ensure that the information requested can be quickly retrieved.

“One of the prerequisites for the full transition to digital governance is the digitization of the paper archives of government agencies and organizations,” Information Society CEO Stavros Asthenidis tells Kathimerini.

Among the many examples of the paperwork nightmare prevalent in the state sector was demonstrated in a 2019 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki survey on bureaucracy in the public sector, which placed the number of steps needed to complete simple assignments. Tellingly, the number of steps needed for the procurement of stationery for a university was 40. 

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