Despite the crisis, a dozen startup incubators have appeared in Athens in recent years. The Greek capital has hidden talents and has benefited from many European funds that aim to encourage young people to start their own businesses. In November, 20 Greek start-ups were rewarded by the second Franco-Hellenic forum for innovation organized by the French Embassy in Athens. These initiatives reflect “the Greece of tomorrow” and allow young Greek entrepreneurs to gain financial support from French companies.
At the Athens Games Festival in October 2017, Amazon also chose four games that will be sold on its platform. Several start-ups in the field of video games and smartphone applications have been very successful in recent years. “We have bright young people in this blooming industry”, said Nikos Pappas, the Greek Minister of Digital Policy, who wants his Ministry to “overhaul every sector”.
And the change begins with the very operation of the ministries, which until now used limited IT infrastructure. “My ministry has gone digital and paperless. We also want to speed up the implementation of the digital signature so that it is adopted by businesses”, explained Nikos Pappas. In collaboration with the Minister of Administrative Reform, Olga Gerovasili, Mr. Pappas wants to extend this digitization to the entire public sector. In a year and a half, they hope that all ministries will be digital.
The Ministry of Digital Policy also wants to encourage more investment in the audiovisual sector. Between 2018 and 2020, 450 million euros will be used to subsidize up to 25% of audiovisual content. “Cinema, educational videos, video games, documentaries, all these media can improve the image of the country and help create a real industry”, said the Minister. “With 253 days of sunshine a year, Greece has a considerable advantage for filming. All that is missing is an institutional framework. That is what we tried to change with our latest law”, explained Pappas.
A national audiovisual institute should also be created, based on the French model. Avoiding bureaucracy and responding to subsidy requests in a short time will be among the priorities of this new institution.
Another essential area to develop for the Minister is the internet and fiber optics. Greece has received 500 million euros from the European Union to develop fiber optics throughout the country. “There is a big difference between what is happening in Greece and other European countries in terms of supply. Greece is the only European country that has a single telecommunication network, an old copper wired network, said Panos Papadopoulos, CEO of Forthnet, one of the largest internet providers in the country. “We share the Ministry’s idea that we need to invest in new generations of networks, such as fiber optics”, added Papadopoulos. Forthnet provides internet to about 18% of households in Greece. For the company, there are two areas which present growth opportunities: cable channels and broadband internet. “In Greece, cable has not penetrated enough homes, only 24%. But there is a high potential to reach 40 to 45% of households”, said Papadopoulos. The other investment area for the company, which employs 1,200 people, is broadband. It accounts for only 7 to 8% of connections in Greece. “This is a very low percentage, compared to other European countries and our company can play an important role in this area”, said Papadopoulos, who believes that French companies could be interested to invest in fiber optics in Greece. The Minister of Digital Economy also noted that, “the French are watching closely what is happening in Greece. I am confident that in this sector there will be French investments.” Papadopoulos added that: “In Greece, there is a high potential for highly qualified and experienced workforce. All the Greeks need is financial capital”. For the company CEO, Emmanuel Macron’s visit in September was a good sign and turns a new page on the dialogue between Greek and French companies.