George Iliopoulos (23) has studied informatics & telecommunications at the University of Athens. In 2013 he worked as a trainee in the European Parliament in Brussels. He wants to continue his studies on e-Governance and is very interested in European affairs.
For yet another year, Greece is trying to overcome a multi-faceted crisis with many and varied consequences. The negative traits of an entire society have now become obvious, as has the imperative need for radical reforms in the direction of development and growth in every sector of modern life. The failed practices of the past must be overcome at any cost, while the productive process, which has been interwoven with the huge, slow and inefficient state mechanism, must, at last, be modernised.
One of the main factors relating to the productive problems of Greece and to the generally low standards of living of its citizens, is the massive bureaucracy. Each year, it costs several billion euro and uncountable man-hours, constituting the leading obstacle to the growth of economic activity. Transactions between state and citizens, state and businesses and between state authorities themselves bring to mind eras of the past. The need for a faster, efficient and more effective way for the state mechanism to deal with the affairs of its citizens is obvious. In the digital world we now inhabit, the use of electronic means and methods, i.e. the use of e-governance tools, is the only way to overcome these problems and allow our country to move forward.
The transactions and requirements of citizens in their interaction with the state are specific and cover a broad range of services. First, each citizen must be able to locate fast and easily via the Internet all personal information concerning him in functions administered by the state, such as tax obligations and healthcare insurance. Citizens must be able to complete promptly transactions related to tax issues via electronic statements and payments; it is also an obligation of the state to inform citizens about how exactly the money they pay in taxes, duties and withholdings are used, down to the level of euro cents, via appropriate reports and graphs.
Further, it is an individual right and also an important factor in increasing the time available for personal affairs, that each citizen should be able to complete any procedure and obtain any certificate without needing to move from his residence or place of work but just by using the technologies enabling electronic signature and electronic identification. This would save considerable man-hours that can be applied to other, productive activities, but would also save money, a not unimportant consideration at a time like this.
Another important change that modern technology can offer to social life is increased digital participation, via electronic voting. The use of such tools would allow every citizen, irrespective of geographical location and mobility, to vote promptly and express his opinion on any matter. Thus, the discharge of our democratic duty is rendered easier and more direct than ever, opening new avenues for the democratic polity. Electronic voting can resolve one of the major issues of our times, that of the “democratic deficit” and abstention from voting.
However, the country’s growth prospects depend on the productive capacity of its businesses. The modern global free market economy and the world of business now move very rapidly, and the competition may be in another country, thousands of miles away. Therefore, it is evident that in order for businesses to contribute successfully to the economy, their employees must engage only in matters directly related to the firm’s business activity, without wasting valuable time and money on bureaucratic or other non-productive matters.
E-governance tools can reduce very greatly indeed the cost in time and money of transactions with the state mechanism. In this way, the total cost of all products is reduced, rendering them more competitive and therefore increasing their value as well as the surplus value that the country’s economy gains from their sale. Further, by using electronic platforms, businesses would enjoy access to their previous transactions with the state and to a schedule of their future obligations. Thus they can be certain that they have full control at all times, so that any risk to the attainment of their business plans can be readily identified.
In addition, at a time when the generation of new business ideas is greater than ever, their prompt implementation by start-up firms is of crucial importance for the recovery of an economy that has been in “intensive care” for several years now. E-governance tools can simplify the procedures for establishing a new business. Digital guidelines can reduce considerably the time needed for the applications required for starting a new business activity and translating into practice a new, innovative idea. A well-governed modern state can provide advice for the best use of services and resources online, so that especially new companies are supported in their growth instead of being stalled.
E-governance can also help in restructuring state mechanisms. It can offer important capabilities for improving the interconnections and the co-operation between state authorities. Firstly, it ensures that all functions of the state are unimpeachable and fully transparent, so that institutions rather than persons prevail in the overall process. This is of crucial significance in a modern democracy. Secondly, for a 21st-century state to be efficient, it must store and manage a great quantity of data concerning its citizens. E-governance tools ensure that personal data are secure, that they are used in a way that is personalised but not personal, and, most importantly, that citizens can access directly any information about themselves.
Of course, the greatest advantage of using e-governance tools is the capability to reduce, speedily and effectively, the size of the state mechanism, without compromising its usefulness but on the contrary enhancing very considerably its effectiveness. The number of employees needed for the operation of modern-day state structures based on digital media and tools is, comparatively, much smaller. Further, the use of such media almost eliminates the need for using paper and writing materials, thus eliminating also the respective costs and the environmental and energy imprint of state services. Overall, this entails a significant reduction of costs, both due to the smaller number of people needed and the possibility for them to work in more productive jobs than those of public servants, and due to reduced needs for various materials. This leads to reduced requirements for tax revenue and reduced taxes, which in turn reduce the cost of products and enhance economic growth.
In conclusion, our present and future relies on democratic participation; it is productive, human, and creative. A new idea is born every minute and people from every corner of the world seek partners for sharing the vision and the risks of innovation. This flourishing creativity can no longer be delayed by slow-moving state services and bureaucratic obstacles. E-governance has arrived to resolve, holistically and permanently, these problems.
The “de-mystification” of the world has revealed the magic of human creativity and the possibilities of human co-operation. This is the creative prospect that the country must embrace so that the bankrupt past can be consigned to history for good.
You can find our complete publication “Moving Greece Forward” here.