The coronavirus pandemic in Cyprus has come as both a curse and a blessing, as it forced authorities to move with unprecedented speeds toward a digital transformation, Deputy Minister for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy Kyriacos Kokkinos said Thursday.
Speaking during a teleconference titled ‘the pandemic outbreak as springboard to digital transformation’, hosted by the JCI-Junior Chamber International Cyprus, Kokkinos said that while no one can deny the negative consequences of the pandemic, it has nevertheless prompted authorities to promote digital transformation projects that would have otherwise required a long time to take shape.
“Covd-19 acted as a digital transformation enabler” Kokkinos said, noting that the Deputy Ministry followed a more agile approach, focusing on “small sprints” instead of pushing for larger projects.
“We left larger projects running, and through a more agile approach, with small steps, we moved to serve the needs that arose after coronavirus broke out, but these will remain in our lives long after the pandemic,” Kokkinos added.
These small but vital steps include transformations which allowed many to work from home, public school students to continue their education through e-learning, and an improvement in the digital interactions between the state and public.
Kokkinos referred to the Ministry of Labour’s web-based platform which had to be up and running in just 15 days in a bid to enable payments to some 200,000 employees who had to remain home as a result of the lockdown, which forced the majority of businesses to suspend operation.
“We designed the system in just two weeks, which is unprecedented (for Cyprus standards)” he added, pointing out that if the system had been established in the traditional way the allowances would need ten months to be paid.
E-justice “a child of the pandemic”
According to Kokkinos, the same approach was followed in the case of e-justice. The Deputy Ministry opted to keep the wider project, launched in 2017, running, focusing on pushing for smaller projects such as electronic filing of cases and appeals, payments or even court hearings by teleconference, a plan which the Justice Minister warmly endorsed.
“We are designing a smaller project with a three-year life cycle which will be incorporated in the wider e-justice project,” he added, noting the e-justice is classified as project of high complexity and high impact.
Moreover, he pointed out that e-justice is high among the Deputy Ministry’s digital transformation list of digital transformation priorities, which also includes web-based services in the Town Planning Department, the Land Registry, digital National Guard conscription and the digital registration of pupils.
“E-justice is high among our priorities. We hope that by September or October we will be able to provide this project to the legal community,” Kokkinos said.
Kokkinos pushing for public sector to institutionalize working from home
Kokkinos noted that he has already spoken with President Nicos Anastasiades over the benefits of institutionalizing working from home for the public sector, something we caught a glimpse of during the two-month lockdown.
“It is indeed primitive for a civil servant to go to his office in the morning, to punch his card and to punch it again in 14:30 to receive is salary, as if in a production factory,” he said
Concluding, Kokkinos said we should enable both public and private employees to work from home, if necessary, by providing the necessary legal framework and system of governance.