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Greece’s five-year Internet catch-up plan February 6, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web, Telecoms.
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Greece plans to spend 3 billion euro ($4.4 billion) over the next five years to catch up with other European Union countries in the usage of high-speed Internet and new technologies.

About 2.5 billion euro will be spent to create a fiberoptic network that will give at least 2 million Greek homes access to broadband services, according to an e-mailed transcript of a speech yesterday by Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis.

“New communications technologies mean innovation, competitiveness, growth, quality of life,” Hatzidakis said. “Greece has been a laggard in the use of new technologies. It is now in our grasp to move forward.”

Greece has consistently trailed behind its European Union partners in broadband usage, hobbling foreign investment and competitiveness. Greek broadband penetration rose from 0.1 percent in 2003 to 7.1 percent in 2007, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That still lags the average of 18.8 percent for OECD countries, and places Greece behind new European Union member states such as Poland and Hungary.

The Greek broadband gap has been blamed on high prices for personal computers and Web connections and the lack of Internet and PC education in schools. Successive governments have also failed to make Internet usage relevant to the wider public. In May 2006, European Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding said Greece trailed Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Croatia and Egypt in providing government services over the Internet.

Financing for the plans will come from the Greek budget, European Union resources and the private sector, Hatzidakis said, without providing details. Building the new infrastructure will aid Greece’s ambitions to be an international communications hub, he said.

Greece’s geographic position may enable it to be a data transport point between Europe and the Middle East and Asia.

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