The coronavirus situation has acted as an accelerator for digitisation, Deputy Minister for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy Kyriacos Kokkinos said Monday as MPs reviewed the junior ministry’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022.

“The ministry is the pandemic’s child,” the minister told lawmakers – referring to the fact that the department was established in March 2020, coinciding with the appearance of Covid-19 on the island.

For 2022, the junior ministry’s expenditures will come to €117 million – compared to €97 million budgeted this year.

Running through the department’s actions in the midst of the pandemic, Kokkinos said some 2.4 million Cyprus Flight Passes were issued between June and September 2021, while 1.2 million EU Digital Covid Certificates were issued within the space of four months.

Additionally, over 600,000 appointments for jabs were arranged through the vaccination portal. And around 480,000 applications for coronavirus-related benefits were processed, of which 350,000 approved and paid directly into people’s bank accounts.

Meantime the use of electronic services has among others expanded to public school enrollments, army conscript enrollments, and the allowance paid to single-parent households.

Also in the pipeline are a number of digitisation projects – such as tracking undeclared work, electronic payments by social insurance and applications for town planning permits.

Over the next three months, Kokkinos promised, a number of allowances and pensions will start being paid electronically to beneficiaries.

Answering MPs’ questions, he said despite the rollout of a system for filing legal cases electronically, to date only 700 lawyers have done so.

The ministry’s budget comprises €36 million in regular expenditures and €81 million in development spending.

Regular expenditures include: payroll for full-time staff; seminars and workshops; training on cyber-security and data science; and participation in EU committees or workgroups.

Another €2.6 million has been allocated for the purchase of services – hiring a chief information security officer, and issuance of certificates for high-tech companies and startups.

As for development spending, this includes a number of government grants: €21 million to the Research & Innovation Foundation, €6.5 million to the Cyprus Research & Academic Foundation, and €6.7 million to the Institute of Neurology and Genetics.

Another €15.5 million will go to the purchase of IT equipment, as part of the national recovery and resilience plan. Regarding the national plan – dubbed ‘Cyprus-Tomorrow’ – Kokkinos said that over a period of several years €282 million overall will be spent on digital transformation.

This includes: €170 million on reforms and investment in e-governance projects to modernise public services; €53 million on improving connectivity and broadband infrastructures; €20 million on upgrading digital skills within the community; and €35 million on creating ‘smart cities’ across the island.