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The 21st century governence should have the features of Athenian democracy

22 October 2012 / 22:10:04  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

There is something wrong with Greece’s e-governance. The examples are many: From nonexistent statistics of deceased people who continue to receive pensions to the heaps of folders in the urban development departments.

Aneesh Chopra - the first chief technology officer in the US administration presented examples of how technology could bring government and citizens closer by facilitating their daily lives.

"The E-panchayat Initiative programme was implemented in my country, India. It is an initiative to support the people in the 250,000 villages that have simply missed the progress of the 20th century. Creating a system of free internet access and the provision of computers has enabled them to open up to the world and facilitate their lives."

Aneesh Chopra told how the American president was enthusiastic about the initiative of the Indian government. "After a while, we went to see the results and people were talking to Barack Obama through a teleconference call. One farmer said that the access to technology has helped him to obtain the necessary bank deeds for his lands directly, whereas he had to previously travel to the district centre to obtain them. The second example was that of a nurse who has had access to immunization records for the first time. The third was of a young man who wanted to stay in the village with his sick grandmother and was able to complete postgraduate studies on the internet. "

According to the expert, who left his post at the White House several months ago to run for governor of Virginia, approximately 1.9 billion people in the world "embrace the idea of e-governance. And this is just one example of what would happen if we managed to connect all those who are now outside it."

Chopra presented examples of his work in the USA. One of the most impressive was the development of a website, which has enabled war veterans to seek employment. The project was implemented within 90 days, thanks to the capacities of technology. "The challenge was not so much the development of the website as the way of searching and finding data. When we raised the issue before the top three search engines, they immediately agreed to connect to the database. Then, we developed an application in which the veteran has to enter limited information about himself: military position, post code and a mobile phone number to receive information on the job vacancies in the relevant region every day."

A discussion followed Aneesh Chopra’s speech, which involved general secretaries from various ministries, the head of the Prime Minister’s strategic planning office and the president of the Hellenic association of high-tech and communications companies Anasthasios Tzikas.

He criticized the government's decision to make obligatory the notary certification of any change in the civic status of people and defined the measure as "a return to the 1960s." In his opinion, "it's time for the government to begin to trust private initiative because we have dozens of companies with extensive experience in new technologies."

For their part, the general secretaries of the departments indicated that their introduction would not be an easy task since even basic electronic records have not been developed for many years now. A typical example is the main secretariat for social benefits to the Ministry of Employment and Insurance. The person in charge, Effie Bekou, said that providing people receiving social assistance with access to technology was a challenge similar to the example in India.

"We are facing difficulties caused by the lack of an electronic database relating to the granting of aids for the purchase of heating oil by the poor. One of the ways for submitting applications is by phone. You do not know whether you are actually talking to the right person, if he is giving you true data and if he is not going to refute the data he himself has provided," Harris Theoharis said, who is the chief secretary in charge of tax collection to the Ministry of Finance.

Aneesh Chopra advised the representatives of the Greek ministries to begin introducing the technology in order to solve the small problems and then, the large-scale ones. "It is difficult everywhere because the public sector is always more cumbersome than the private one. But very good results can be achieved with good cooperation and the government could actually be beneficial to the citizens," he said.

A few months ago, Aneesh Chopra left his position at the White House to run for governor of Virginia. However, he continues to share his experience through participation in forums in different countries.

Tags: Politicse-governenceNew technologiesForumAneesh Chopra
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