“Cyprus is at a turning point in terms of technology. For the first time, there is a real opportunity for technology to become a substantial force to drive the economy forward. Not only are we gradually improving our IT skills on the island, but crucially we are making significant steps towards improving our infrastructure. As a result, there is, maybe for the first time, a real chance for one or more of the Big Tech companies to invest in Cyprus” comments Andreas Neocleous, CEO of Cyta, the government-owned telecommunications leader.
“Let’s talk infrastructure. Within the next 3 years Cyta will be covering all urban (and some rural) areas of the island with optical fibre connections, offering speeds up to 1Gbps. This means businesses can begin to offer digital services that were not previously available. More importantly, it means that our customers will be able to use their fast internet connections to enjoy those services and improve on their quality of life.
The fibre optics, in combination with the launch of 5G, means that a slew of opportunities for business creation will come into being in Cyprus in the near to medium term. With the arrival of 5G, a whole world of new applications based on artificial intelligence and virtual reality is coming our way much sooner than we think. 5G networks will touch on almost all sectors of the economy such as energy, public health, agriculture, industry, transport and logistics, public safety, security and defence. Cyta Business, our enterprise business unit, is already looking at solutions that utilise 5G to enable and inspire growth for our business customers.
At the same time, we fully realise that for an island, connectivity to the rest of the world is on the critical path of the digital economy. We have been recently investing significant amounts in new submarine cables that offer significantly more bandwidth between Cyprus and the rest of the world.
In addition to the infrastructure, Cyprus offers a safe and stable environment, good quality of life and vast amounts of renewable energy. Add to that, a package with tax cuts and financial incentives for the interested parties, and it is suddenly possible that major technology companies may choose to host their data centres in Cyprus, creating new jobs and revitalising the economy.”
Another reason that tech has every chance to become a big player in the economy, is that we have finally learned the importance of resilience, Neocleous insists.
“What has become very clear is that a digital society is a much more resilient society. The lessons learned by the government, and by our industry, during Covid-19, will greatly improve and complement the digital services on offer. The crisis has created a fast-track path for a digital future with better and faster internet connections, more online transactions and more pleasant experiences than ever before.”
Nonetheless, Neocleous believes that the new generations have got to do some serious soul searching, when it comes to their job expectations.
“There’s a quote in the movie Almost Famous which mentions ‘an entire generation of Cinderellas, and there’s no glass slipper’. This is how I feel when I ask young people today about their expectations from their careers. Despite what they are led to believe, not many people will become successful entrepreneurs, game developers, or high-earning youtubers. Parents are not helping either, raising the bar for their kids at such unrealistic heights that makes failure inevitable. The truth is that most young people entering the workforce are in for a big shock. The faster they realise this, the better it will be for them in the long run.”
“At Cyta, we are working to create a modern, customer-focused company. But we are challenged in recruiting the young talent we need because of this expectations gap. Therefore many tech companies look firstly for Cypriots who have worked abroad as hires, as they have already been exposed to a culture where drive for achievement is critical.”
Neocleous finds that the nascent startup culture in Cyprus is seriously hindered by this expectations gap as well.
“The start-up culture we have in Cyprus is in serious need of vision and purpose – the main one being to make money. When we work with start-ups, we frequently find that the business plans they elaborate on are largely academic and not in touch with reality. There is insufficient understanding of the efforts required to sell a product or service, and a general lack of a grasp of the need to differentiate. A lot of cost is missing in the numbers and there is a great deal of wishful thinking factored in the expected revenue. It’s not enough to come up with an idea. You have to know the market it will interact with, how to get your customers to buy it and how to be different than the other similar ideas home and abroad.”
Cyta, on the other hand, is working hard to stay in close touch with its customers and the international telecommunications market.
“Our differentiation is based on customer experience. It is true that market research as well as our internal measurements show that with every transaction we are continuously and steadily improving customer experience. Our customers used to have relatively simple requirements, but this is not true anymore. Their expectations have been raised, not by local competition, but by the global game-changers and the Big Tech. Suddenly, our stores are compared with Apple Stores, our webshop needs to compete with Amazon and Cytavision needs to offer all features of Netflix. This is the market that we operate in, this is the game that we have to win.”