ATHENS – Forced to accelerate making government services go digital online during the COVID-19 Coronavirus, despite resistance from some civil servants, Greece has won praise from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD.)
An essential lockdown that began March 23 to help fight the spread of the disease requires, for example, that people making allowed trips outside their homes
Under lockdown regulations imposed by authorities on March 23, anyone out have either a signed self-declaration form or must have sent a text message to a central number.
“Administrations can avoid unnecessary burdens for citizens, businesses and other stakeholders by enabling the use of digital instruments such as mobile applications (as was done e.g. in Greece from the start, and more recently adopted in France) rather than paper forms, and avoiding procedures altogether if these do not demonstrably help address contagion risks,” OECD said in a report.
Long being slow to improve Internet speed or put government processes online, the COVID-19 pandemic has led Greek ministries and services to quickly pick up the pace of going digital instead of using mountains of paper.
The country was 26th among the then-28 members of the European Union last year on the bloc’s Digital Economy and Society Index, and Internet users have moaned about slow speed and breaking connections.
Now the New Democracy government is adding more digital applications to its websites, said Euronews.
While still behind most of the EU in offering fast and ultra-fast broadband available, Greeks can get prescriptions online or on phones to avoid going to doctors and for hundreds of other services, and a mobile platform for the cabinet to function remotely.
“Digital solutions are part of our overall government program, which we decided to speed up with regards to its implementation,” Kyriakos Pierrakakis, the Greek minister of Digital Governance told the news site.
“We focused on the development of a unified government portal, which is currently providing more than 500 different government services to citizens. And we have added new services such as prescriptions, and especially services which touch upon the health system right now can be extremely useful for citizens. And we have obviously instrumentalized teleconferencing, we have added digital signatures to the cell phones of ministers,” he added.
“(This) has become a necessity, and we’re trying to provide as many services as possible to citizens,” said Pierrakakis, slowly changing the image of Greek public service offices having stacks of paper files piled up on the floor.
“I think it will stick, I think this will have to be like that, after the virus,” also said Pierrakakis.
“I mean, I don’t think that we will observe simplicity going back to complexity. We’re currently simplifying as many government processes as we can, we’re trying to turn the state digital, and I think this change, this policy, is here to stay,” he also added.