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Slow Internet Keeps Prized Digital Nomads Away from Greece

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/Tatiana Bolari)

ATHENS -- Greece's hopes of luring more valued and skilled digital nomads to work and live in the country – even offering tax incentives – isn't enough to offset what they most need, especially a fast and reliable Internet.

In a feature, Business Daily reported the country lags in 100th place in the world with an average speed of 36.42 megabits per second (Mbps) and is behind the likes of Turkey, Nort Macedonia , Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia and even Kyrgyzstan and Ghana.

The report also indicated that social inequality is a deterrent for people with technical skills even though the cost of living, especially for housing, is far lower than in most countries, especially the key United States market.

It's not just foreigners that the New Democracy government is trying to attract but the vast legions of the young and skilled who fled Greece during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis, also locked by a system that favored political contacts and patronage, not merit or entrepreneurship.

Some 60 percent of Greeks abroad would like to return if they could work as digital nomads, the piece said, noting that the sites Nestpick and nomadlist said the country isn't taking advantage of its attractions, including cheap rent and entertainment.

Nestpick said that Athens is the 20th cheapest city in renting business premises and the 24th cheapest for an apartment and the 11th cheapest overall in the cost of living, while it is 19th place for entertainment.

But rivals where security, freedom and fights are seen better include Hungary – which has an authoritarian government – Turkey, where human rights are being trampled, and the United Arab Emirates and Dubai.

The young skilled and educated also take into account factors not related directly to their work, including gender equality where Greece ranks only 64th, with nomadlist showing a poor record for racial tolerance and toward the LGBT+ community.

But the biggest hindrance remains what digital nomads need most – clicking on sites on their computer and other devices and getting fast and reliable connections, as the Internet is slow and often breaks up.

In the Nestpick ranking, Athens is in 65th place in the overall performance and capacity of the Internet, while in the nomadlist analysis, the average internet speed is reported to be a woeful 12 Mbps. 

Romania, which has a reputation for skilled hackers, is third fastest in the world and Greece ranks far behind most European Union countries, as the government has said it will try to improve the technology.

For mobile phones, the Internet works better, Greece ranking 25th at 73.36 Mpbs in a rating by the site Ookla, but falling five places over the 2020 list. The top places are the United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Qatar.

The government said that it was going to give work visas for digital nomads for a year which can be extended to two years but only if they have not worked in Greece before and don't work for a Greek company based in Greece during their stay, only for foreign companies.

They can bring family members who won't be allowed to work but who could also get a visa that expires at the same time, although it wasn't said if that includes a partner also skilled as a digital nomad who would otherwise qualify.