On 1st February, a strategic agreement between the Greek government and Microsoft was signed in Lisbon by the minister of Economy and Finance George Alogoskoufis and the chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates within the framework of implementation of the new Digital Strategy 2006-2013 and the closer collaboration between the Greek State and private companies with respect to Information Technology issues.
This agreement, which is non-exclusive for the Greek side (i.e., in no way it is specified that Microsoft will be the exclusive supplier of the Greek state) proves that the leading software developer in the world faces Greece on equal terms with the other European countries in the sector of new technologies. Similar agreements have been signed with other European countries, e.g. Britain, Germany, Spain, Finland, Czech Republic, etc.
As far as the agreement’s benefits are concerned, the Special Secretary of the Information Society, prof. Vassilis Assimakopoulos who attended the agreement’s signing stressed out: “(this agreement) utilizes the Microsoft software supplies that have been made so far or will be made within the framework of the projects and tenders of the ‘Information Society’ Programme that are in progress, so that additional benefits be achieved for the citizens, small and medium enterprises and the State”.
As far as the public sector is concerned, the agreement provides for preferential financial terms for the purchase of Microsoft user licenses while the acquisition of all new versions in a three-year time period is ensured without an additional cost. According to the Special Secretary, the specific parameter will have a very positive impact since – except for very few projects – “it was not possible to check whether all agencies that were supplied with Microsoft products used to purchase them at governmental preferential prices, neither was it certain that these products had always been covered by a guarantee or that they were regularly updated; moreover, it could not be ensured that each agency held a software of the same latest edition – a fact that resulted in high management and maintenance costs and a vague image of the existing situation”.
|Free of charge use at home
Another particularly significant parameter that can pay a major role in the efforts for the wider dissemination of new technologies in the country is the provision referring to the free of charge use of the software at home for the employees of the public sector encompassed in the agreement while their training in the right use of the software via e-training tools is also foreseen.
According to Mr. Assimakopoulos, the agreement with the Microsoft regards mainly the citizens and enterprises… As far as the citizens are concerned, besides the indirect benefits from the upgrade of the public sector’s services, support of the use of new technologies is foreseen within sensitive population groups, like young unemployed people, residents of frontier areas, etc. through the establishment and operation of Computer Laboratories that will provide training opportunities and opportunities for the improvement of employment perspectives. Microsoft undertook the commitment for the development of 10 at least such centers until 2008. In the sector of education, the provision of scholarships to PHD students is foreseen as well as the free of charge provision of Microsoft software to higher education institutes for education and research purposes (in specific, to Information Technology, Computer Science and related specialties’ schools and departments).
With regard to enterprises, the agreement includes the establishment of an innovation center of Microsoft in Greece, which will support the academic community and the Greek software companies with the aim to develop cutting edge technologies competitive to the international market and at the same time technological skills, to accelerate collaborations and promote innovation in Greece.
Finally, by means of the agreement, the small and medium enterprises will be supported with regard to the financing opportunities to be provided to them, for the procurement and utilization of new technologies within the framework of the initiative “Development Euro-plan” that was announced a few months ago.
|Public – private collaboration/ partnership
This agreement forms – as Mr. Assimakopoulos stressed out – a first critical step towards the closer collaboration between the public and private sector in new technologies, as this partnership is described completely in the Digital Strategy 2006-2013. He also underlined: “with the aim to utilize new technologies for the improvement of life quality and productivity of the Greek economy, the new strategy utilizes every tool available. Such agreements form a part of the tools available and we want them to be multiplied… To achieve the “Digital Jump” we cannot be limited in the existing Operational Programme “Information Society”. We utilize the law on Public – Public Partnerships and the new law on Investments while we set the foundations for the 4th Programmed Period. We have to use dynamically every opportunity so as to win the time we wasted as a country in new technologies; we also intend to connect new technologies – in the citizens’ mind - with the drastic reduction of bureaucracy and faster services and – in the businessmen’s mind – with the increase of his company’s earnings. For us, 2006 is not simply the year of commencement of implementation of the Digital Strategy for the period up to 2013, but it signals the beginning of an era in which we want new technologies to be the ally of the citizen and the enterprise in their every day life”.
|Opportunities to the younger generation
Following signing of the agreement between the Greek government and Microsoft, the minister of Economy and Finance, George Alogoskoufis – who was the chief of the Greek delegation that participated in Microsoft’s Forum of European Leaders – underlined: “this is a very significant agreement that forms a critical step in the application of the government’s Digital Strategy. Our aim is to implement a Digital Jump forward, for the benefit of the young generation, of small and medium enterprises and of the life quality of Greek citizens. I believe that by means of this agreement, we will provide significant opportunities to the younger generation of Greek pupils and students, researchers, small and medium businessmen and to all citizens”.
From his side, the chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates expressed his pleasure for the cooperation with the Greek government aiming at the broader support of the citizens’ technological skills and of e-governance services. He then added that through the development of synergies with the state, the educational institutes and Greek software companies, Microsoft undertakes to contribute to the efforts of Greece to build a dynamic economy of knowledge and an interactive digital society”.
|The Greek human resources/ manpower
Another dimension was added by the comment made by the managing director of Microsoft Hellas, Christos Tsaggos, who underlined: “the partnership inaugurated today is the result of long term activities with the aim to transfer know how attract investments in our country. Being Greek employees of Microsoft, we hope that this agreement will assist in bringing out even more the talent and capacities of Greeks through technology”.