Op-Ed: Dimitris Papastergiou on the digital transformation of Greek cities
In my capacity as President of the Central Union of Greek Municipalities, I am in direct contact with the mayors of all the 332 municipalities in Greece.
The digital transformation, undertaken in a bold and consistent manner in Greece, has caused multiple chain actions and effects on Local Authorities.
Processes that previously needed a long time to be completed, are now taking place immediately. The speed of online service has significantly increased, and most Greeks choose to process their affairs online, in order to avoid unnecessary travel, overcrowding and delays.
We acknowledge that tourism is a fundamental factor for the development of Greece. This is where digitalization comes in. Digitalization not only facilitates the efforts of attracting mainly foreign tourists, but it also enhances the level of service provided to them. A considerable number of municipalities in Greece have realized that the times have changed and so have the demands of our visitors. Put simply, municipalities are rapidly realizing that either we change and adapt ourselves to modern requirements or we are clearly going to be left behind.
Municipalities are strengthening their digital infrastructure networks on a daily basis. In many parts of Greece, you may surf the internet, either for work or entertainment, completely free of charge using Wi-Fi hotspots. Not to mention that the infrastructure of fast internet connection, mainly due to the recent and continuing expansion of telemedicine, is now an important factor when choosing a destination. Every traveler needs to feel safe in the place they visit, thus, providing speedy and direct online communication with the attending physician or family doctor usually enhances one’s sense of security.
The use of the internet, however, does not forgive mistakes. Every potential visitor will seek out every possible information before traveling.
The results of the potential traveler’s digital search will either lead one to travel to Greece or choose a different destination. Having said that, municipalities should become extroverted, providing all the information the traveler needs – before it has even been requested – make use of open data technology, offer virtual browsing through websites and so much more.
A trend of the time is also the so-called digital nomads. Our country is already utilizing its comparative advantages, such as the climatic conditions, the hospitable spirit of the Greeks but also the infrastructure in order to receive digital nomads.
It is well known that a new work-model has been established for a great amount of people globally, and that is working from home or remote jobs. The intention of the government is to provide the necessary functional and legal environment to digital nomads in order to ensure security for their work.
I strongly believe that the residence permits for digital nomads and their families will be secured through simple procedures. At the same time, we must provide these people and their families with everything else they will need, such as schools, access to health facilities with insurance coverage and more. A complete road map.
These people should be able to get, within a few hours, the information and details of the actions they need to take.
It is almost certain that if they find a simple and friendly way to “move” to Greece, they will soon become part of our local societies, revitalizing local communities by taking advantage of the fact that their work will be all year round and not just during the summer months.
Consequently, the concept of Greece as a 365-day-destination might actually become a reality.
Central Union of Municipalities in Greece (KEDE) President
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