Cyprus must work hard to improve its poor digital skills and increase the availability of fast internet connections, a workshop by stakeholders in the electronic communication market concluded on Wednesday.
Cyprus is among the weakest EU countries regarding the digital economy, electronic communications and postal services commissioner Giorgos Michaelides pointed out during the event, basing his remarks on this year’s Digital Economy and Society Index (Desi)
“Specifically, Cyprus ranks 25th in the EU in terms of service pricing, most recently in relation to the use of fast internet, in 24th place for the number of people with specific knowledge in electronic communications and last in the number of science graduates,” he said. “Cyprus is also ranked 25th in digital banking and 26th in e-commerce and 25th in the development of companies through technology.”
However, he pointed out, Cyprus holds the highest positions in other uses of the internet that are not related to economic growth such as downloading games, music, videos and the use of social media.
Despite improvements in e-government Cyprus is still behind and further improvement would increase demand for higher internet speeds, he said. He cited surveys that demonstrated a direct correlation of GDP growth among countries with increased use of technology, involving business growth, new services and employment of young people.
Communications minister Marios Demetriades concede that whilst the government is promoting technological development, bureaucratic procedures and a blame game, often by public officials, are hindering implementation.
“As a state we have failed in the matter of the rapid implementation of projects and especially of technology projects,” the minister said, noting that there should be better coordination, participation of the private sector and the assignment of the central role to a body that could be a subministry of development.
In terms of skills development, Pantelis Pantelis from the education ministry said that IT was the most preferred area of study for students sitting the pancyprian exams this year. He said the main goal was to tackle skills shortages and develop people who can adapt to the new technologies.
Representatives of telecoms providers also took part in the discussion. On behalf of Cyta, deputy executive director Michalis Achilleos referred to Cyta’s effort to install an optical network by the end of 2017 which will provide unprecedented connection speeds for Cypriot data and be exploited by alternative providers.
“The problem is to have services and people to use these speeds,” he commented.
Cabelnet CEO Nicolas Shacolas addressed the issue of low demand in Cyprus for high speeds as well as the limited Cypriot market in which four companies operate while Primetel CEO Ermis Stephanou said that the telecommunications sector is developing very fast and Cyprus cannot stay behind. To this end, the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders should be widened.