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Cyprus cabinet goes digital (at last!)

20 February, 2014

 * “Time is money” says IT ‘czar’ *
Finance Minister Haris Georgiades will no longer feel jealous of his EU colleagues at Eurogroup meetings who resort to their tablets to call up government data and decisions, because as of next month, the Cyprus Council of Ministers will have been fully digitised allowing remote access by all cabinet members.
The new plan, agreed at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday, is part of the e-Cooperation programme developed by the government’s Dept of Information Technology Services (TYP) based on the Microsoft Share Point platform. It will incorporate a highly secure intranet with access only by ministers, their assistants and the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers.
Cabinet staff must complete their transition from hand-written documents and notes to fully digitised by March 20, after which the savings will be enormous, both in the volume of paper and time wasted, as well as in the real benefits derived from efficiencies.
Besides, TYP’s mission is clear; it aims “to plan, develop, implement, manage and maintain the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems which modernise the functioning of the public sector with a goal to improve services offered to the public, increase productivity and efficiency, decrease operational costs, save time and resources.”
“This is proof that ‘time really is money’ as the saying goes,” explained TYP Director Costas Agrotis, often dubbed the government’s IT ‘czar’, adding that e-Communication and the wider concept of e-Government will also help develop a new working culture, introducing a new generation of white collar public servants.
“We have provided government and other public services with the necessary tools and now allow them to communicate faster and more efficiently. After all, one of the quickest ways to exit a state of crisis, as Cyprus is in today, is by introducing efficiencies, transparency and speed,” he explained.
Agrotis added that not only will other departments be forced to embrace the digital age in order to submit the relevant documentation for any given process, but it will also improve efficiencies and the productivity of the individuals.
“Ideally, we might soon also see the introduction of the ‘work-from-home’ approach by many people who may be absent on leave or sick but need to pass on the necessary information,” he said.
The Cabinet’s digitisation plan is part of President Nicos Anastasiades’ public pledge to modernise the government machine and follows on the previous administration’s initial work as part of Cyprus taking the 6-month presidency of the European Council in the second half of 2012.
This means that all Cabinet decisions and the relevant ‘paperwork’ and supporting documents (proposals, notes, reports, etc.) will now be accessible by every minister, any time and from anywhere.
The Secretariat of the Council of Ministers said that the savings from e-Cooperation can be immediately quantified: 2 mln sheets of paper a year, a 95-97% cut in photocopy ink and maintenance, savings on messengers and storage space, time and efficiency from working at home or remotely, postal costs, access and immediate exchange of large files,
Services that have already joined e-Government include VAT and Inland Revenues (that will be merged in 2014, anyway), parts of the Labour Office, the maritime and road transport divisions of the Ministry of Communications, parts of the Land Surveys Dept., parts of the education services, the University of Cyprus and the National Library, the statistical service Cystat, Datapost, the certification office CYS, the Trade Ministry’s Rapex portal for dangerous goods and various complaints and online application services.
The full list of e-Government services is available at:
http://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/DITS/dits.nsf/All/FD17EC35B29B8AF4C225791100310C3C?OpenDocument
All that remains now is for TYP to update the content of its website, for which the Financial Mirror would be more than glad to assist.