Cyprus will invest €283m from an EU-backed recovery and resilience fund in a concerted drive to transition into the digital era aiming at stronger economy and prosperity, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference with deputy minister of research Kyriakos Kokkinos, Anastasiades said that Cyprus would be working with Estonia, long-considered a pioneer in e-government, to adopt its best practices as it pushes ahead with its ambitious Cyprus-Tomorrow endeavour.
The plan was drawn up in line with the framework of the EU’s digital decade aiming at making the bloc a leader in the digital sector by 2030 and fulfils the requirement that a minimum 20 per cent of funds are invested on actions with a digital element.
A total of €282m, which corresponds to 23 per cent of total investments in the programme Cyprus-Tomorrow is dedicated to action which concern and/or contribute to the digital transition.
This is proof of the crucial importance of this pillar to Cyprus’ recovery, sustainability and competitiveness and demonstrates the commitment of the state to accelerate digital transformation at the level of the government, the economy and society, the president said.
The proposed actions include reforms and investments in e-government, both central and local, e-justice, cross-border e-health, boosting broadband, a digital link between Cyprus and Greece with a submarine optic cable, creating smart cities, digital transformation at schools, smart water management systems, promoting innovative entrepreneurship and supporting small and medium sized companies make the digital transformation.
Anastasiades said important steps have already been taken including digitalisation at the town and planning department so that it offers electronic services to the public, the 120 services available online through the Ariadne portal and information on energy grant schemes.
The establishment of the deputy ministry for research, which gave impetus to this effort, coincided with the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. “Despite all the difficulties which arose, I believe we responded to the special and increased digital needs adequately,” he said, citing as example the introduction of remote learning, the processing online of grants for hundreds of millions, the 8998 text message system, contact tracing of close contacts and the vaccination portal among other.
“At the same time, the pandemic had shown even more the need to accelerate digital reform as an important pillar so that we can meet the expectations of citizens and align ourselves with the requirements of our times,” he said.
Anastasiades said he will soon be visiting Estonia where a new memorandum for cooperation in e-government and information technology and communication will be signed with a view to transferring best practices from the Baltic state on initiatives such as the creation of a single register that will constitute the sole data base for citizens, restructuring of the social insurance system and technical support for digital transformation projects.
Noting that access to the EU funds is conditional on a number of reforms and legislative amendments, the president again appealed to all political parties in the new House of Representatives as well as social partners to join forces to make this possible.