By Dean Jordan
CYPRUS ranks third last in a list of EU countries on the percentage of the population who posses basic digital skills.
Compared to 16 per cent of the European average, Cyprus comes in at a low 11 per cent.
Speaking at a workshop on new digital technologies on Monday, commerce ministry permanent secretary Stelios Chimonas said Cypriots need to use technology as a key driver for growth and modernisation to restart the economy.
Chimonas said Cyprus needs to “reverse” this trend in a fiercely competitive international environment, noting that by 2015 there will be 900,000 job vacancies in the field of Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT) within the EU, while 90 per cent of jobs by 2015 will require some kind of digital skills.
The ministry official highlighted that Cypriots fared badly compared to their EU counterparts regarding the number of people who have never used the internet.
Over one third of the Cypriot population, 36.3 per cent, have never used the internet compared to the European average of 23 per cent, he said.
Regarding university graduates, for every 1,000 women university graduates in Cyprus, only 29 graduate in the field of ICT compared with 95 men.
Only four of these women would go on to work in the field, he noted.
Chimonas argued that small businesses benefit greatly from having an online presence, noting that those with a web presence developed at double the speed compared to small businesses that remained offline.
He berated the tourism industry’s failure to tap into social networks adequately to supply a “free and direct promotion” of Cyprus’ tourism product.
The permanent secretary also referred to the potential digitalisation of government records, using advanced ‘cloud computing’ which could be operated by dozens of employees simultaneously.
Uniting the approximate 500 government buildings that house various departments under one all-encompassing system would reduce the number of civil servants needed, he said.
Reducing lengthy bureaucratic procedures for businesses by streamlining and digitalising current administrative practices could create savings in the business sector of around €700 million a year.