Hand-held guides for site visitors unlikely

A plan to make hand-held electronic guides available this year to visitors at 15 of the most significant archaeological sites around Greece are likely to be scrapped because of Culture Ministry delays that would require an agreement with the provider of the gadgets, a consortium that includes Siemens, to be extended. The arrival of the battery-powered, touchscreen devices that weigh just 270 grams was heralded in March 2007 as improving the experience visitors would have at sites including the Acropolis and National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Delphi, Ancient Olympia, Mycenae, Vergina, Epidaurus and Knossos in Crete. The gadgets would offer high-resolution video, detailed diagrams of the sites and imagery along with stereo sound. The Siemens-Fujitsu consortium took over the project in the fall of 2006 after another group led by Hewlett Packard, which had initially won the tender, withdrew from the scheme. The first devices were due to be made available in April but sources said that the Organization for the Promotion of Greek Culture (OPEP), which operates under the auspices of the Culture Ministry, has delayed supplying Siemens-Fujitsu with the material it needs to transfer to the devices. A renewal of the contract would require the approval of Culture Minister Michalis Liapis, which appears highly unlikely given that Liapis has been forced to deny taking part in a junket organized by Siemens in 2005. The government has already paid 4 million euros for the project, which it obtained from the European Union’s Information Society program, but will likely have to pay this back to Brussels if the agreement is called off.