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Research Assistant: Vision for Cyprus to become a competitive regional hub (VID)

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Υφ.Ερευνα&sigma: Ερα ;μα να γΙνει η Κyπρος ανταγωνιστ&iota ;κός περιφερειακός κόμβος (VID)

< p> His vision is to make Cyprus a competitive regional hub, with a society ready for the future and an even stronger economy thanks to digital technologies, Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, Filippos Hadjizacharia, told KYPE, noting that, this at the moment, more than €300 million projects are underway. 

"Mandatory" to connect Pothen Esshes of publicly exposed persons with the Government agencies to document the information they enter, he said in an interview with KYPE, while, among other things, he said that Cyprus is not unprotected in terms of cyber attacks, and that mistakes were made but the goal is to shield state structures.

Mr. Hatzizacharia also mentioned that he received the green light from the President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulidis, for his proposal to create a "transparency platform", where decisions on Government projects and actions will be posted in order to inform the public regarding in public spending. His Deputy Ministry will prepare a proposal-plan to be submitted to the Council of Ministers.

The goal of the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, said Mr. Hatjizacharia, is "total digital transformation" of the Government and the implementation of the National digital strategy. "Our vision, and my personal one, is for Cyprus to become a competitive regional hub, with a society ready for the future and an even stronger economy thanks to digital technologies," he added.

He referred to the "distinguished futurist" Gert Leonhart who, according to the Deputy Minister, said that "” never in human history has the present been so temporary” and specifically, he said that humanity will change in the next 20 years, compared to the previous 300 years. "Consequently, it is imperative to keep up with the changes of the modern era, the rapid technological developments", said Mr. Hatzizacharia.

Asked about the projects run by his Deputy Ministry, Mr. Hatzizacharia said that the National Digital Strategy is implemented in three pillars – Government, State-Society, and Economy. “All three pillars are interconnected,” he said, adding that, at the moment, projects worth more than €300 million are underway. These include projects that are citizen-friendly, simplifying procedures, improving the quality of life of citizens, training, and speeding up procedures, and generally to make citizens' lives better, he said.

He said too many projects are running  at the moment, mentioning a few such as, the installation of modern information systems in public hospitals, in the Registrar of Companies, in Urban Planning, in the Land Registry, in the Department of Road Transport. At the same time, there are digital infrastructure upgrade projects, he said, such as projects to provide internet throughout Cyprus, even in remote areas, while they have already progressed with a project financed by the Recovery and Resilience Plan, of the order of approx. €35 million, the so-called “Smart Cities”. Regarding “Smart Cities”, Mr. Hatzizacharia mentioned that a platform will be created – the Cy Smart City Platform – which will include three categories – smart lighting, smart parking, and smart waste management. "We have prepared the study, we have been in contact with all the Mayors and competent bodies, to implement this program", he said, adding that within this year they will go out to tender.

Proposal to the Council of Ministers for a "full transparency" platform

Asked about information for his presentation on Wednesday to the Council of Ministers regarding transparency issues, Mr. Hatzizacharia said that he proposed the creation of a "full transparency" platform.

He referred to statements by President Christodoulidis for complete transparency, noting that "all of us, zero exceptions, support this rule". He said that his proposal concerns the creation by his Deputy Ministry of a platform where everything that is decided will be posted, not only in the Council of Ministers. He noted that there is also the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers where the issues are posted, but, beyond that, he continued, and each Ministry and Deputy Ministry, and then maybe even local authorities will join this platform, and they will post their decisions on projects or activities concerning the use of public resources.

“The state receives this money from the citizens,” he said, stating that, as a state, they should be accountable for where this money goes. He said that maybe there will be a period after each post where citizens will be able to express their opinion.

According to Mr. Hatzizacharias, the President of the Republic answered him "with just one word. : "Go ahead", and this proves how much both he and the Government as a whole want full transparency in what we do and where the money of the Republic of Cyprus goes.

He said that he himself has spoken with his colleagues at the Deputy Ministry about the preparation of a thorough plan which will be submitted to the Council of Ministers, "and we will act accordingly".

"Hot issue" cyber security

Asked about the challenges they have to deal with, following the recent cyber-attacks and the matter of relocating government servers housed at the Ministry of Finance, following a water leak, Mr Hadjizacharia said that, for him, cyber security "is the now a hot topic which should have already been implemented, so that we don't have these problems we faced last month». He stated that, as a Deputy Ministry, they have proceeded with the implementation of the Security Operations Center, which was undertaken by the Digital Security Authority (DSA), and at the same time, in collaboration with the DSA and the IT Services Department, they have proceeded with the installation of sensors in all critical state infrastructures. He explained that these sensors enter the specific systems where there will be monitoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

At the same time, he said, APSA has proceeded to prepare the risk report assessment), and in the simulation of attacks (penetration tests) to identify weaknesses in the systems that the Government currently has. As a Deputy Ministry, he said, they have already proceeded with the training of public officials, over 10,000 officials, on cyber security issues.

"This had to be done and is required, and why’ “We have adopted this because global studies have shown that more than 70% of when a hacker strikes, it comes from human error,” he said. Why’ for this reason, he added, the Deputy Ministry has prioritized the  training but at the same time the so-called "phishing test", i.e. tests are done by sending something to their e-mail to see how they react when they receive something.

He referred to the campaign to inform citizens and small and medium-sized businesses with the Cybersecurity Guide, noting, however, that it is not considered that with the points mentioned in the Guide they are fully shielded.

“Cyber ​​attacks are part of the global reality and we will live it and it will exist every day,” he said. He said that Cyprus is not unprotected. "Mistakes were made, there are weaknesses, our goal is to ensure, to shield our state structures, to have operations continue and to protect our systems first", he added.

Asked if the cyberattacks, he said that as far as he is informed by APSA, due to the sensors that have been installed so far, they are getting signs that there are some who are seeing traffic on their systems for interference, but they did not have any information that there is another event like those of of Land Registry, the University of Cyprus and the Open University.

Relocating government servers within the next few months

Regarding the relocation of the government servers housed in the Ministry of Finance, after the water leak, Mr. Hatzizacharia referred to the agreement with the Telecommunications Authority (Cyta) for their relocation to a specially designed space. He said that, within the coming months, they will be relocated to the specially designed space, in which all international standards (ISO) such as Business Continuity are applied, that is, the work service can continue with a backup system of Government Forwarders, in case of a problem in the primary system , and at the same time to ensure the restoration of disasters (Disaster Recovery Plan).

"Nodal point" for digital transformation Gov.cy

On whether more services will be added to the online portal of the Republic of Cyprus, Gov.cy, Mr. Hatzizacharia said that Gov.cy is "the focal point for digital transformation" and that all government websites will be hosted on this platform, which will be implemented within the year with a period of January 2024. He said that there will be a uniform series of websites, both citizens and businesses will be able to enter Gov.cy&nbsp ; and accordingly to visit the websites he wishes. 

At the same time, he said, Gov.cy is the place where citizens and businesses will be served online, and this will be implemented at a later stage, but they are running it simultaneously with the first one. He explained that citizens and businesses will be able to pay their obligations, make applications, and receive certificates. "Everything will be done by the Gov.cy", he said.According to the Deputy Minister, the electronic platform for the electronic declaration of Pothen Esches concerning publicly exposed persons is expected within the month, but that it is "imposed" to link the declarations with the government agencies to document the information declared.

He said that the project is divided into two phases, the first of which concerns the electronic submission of the Publicly Exposed Person's Whereabouts data. This, based on the Law, he added, must be done three months from the appointment, while there will be specific fields that must be completed in order for the person making the declaration to proceed, which will be sent to a tripartite committee, which consists of the Tax Commissioner and two other persons. Then, he said, there will be the periodic declarations, which, based on the Law, are made in the third year from the initial declaration, or three months after the service of the publicly exposed person has ended, or he has completed his term and concerns him/her his/her spouse and minor children. "This is about what we will all see by the end of May this year," he said.

The second phase, he said, needs an amendment to the legislation "because we are trying and want to unite the Government services" with the declarations of the Publicly Exposed Persons, in order to be able to document the information given by these persons. He said for example, if any of these people sell their car, if Pothen Esches is united with the Department of Road Transport then they will be able to  it should be established whether the car is or is not the property of this person.

Mr. Hatzizacharia also said that they have made a thorough presentation of the specific Pothen Esches concerning publicly exposed persons to the Institutions Committee of the Parliament.

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Digital wallet

Regarding the introduction of the "digital wallet" and citizens' electronic access to their certificates, he said it is divided into two parts: the European (EU Wallet) and the National wallet.

Mr. Hatzizacharia mentioned that Cyprus participates in the European wallet as a state for the cross-border part, and that is, it concerns cross-border transactions between citizens of EU member states. He noted that this project started in April 2023 and the information they have up to today is that it is expected to be implemented in two years, and that there will be a limited amount of information that will be hosted in the specific European e-wallet. "We are working with them with the ultimate aim and goal of completing the specific project", he said.

Regarding the national digital wallet, Mr. Hadjizacharia said that the citizen will be able to download the application on his mobile phone and will be able to download any certificate that comes from State services, such as identity card, passport, driver's license, card fan, etc. It is something that started in 2022, he said, and there have been meetings with the sponsoring company, while it is very close to being implemented and announced.

He mentioned that, with the creation of the European digital wallet , the integration of the national with the European will take place and that the company contracted with the Republic of Cyprus is the same that creates the European.

Education plan for digital skills

As for whether there is any training plan for digital skills, especially for the elderly, Mr. Hatzizacharia mentioned that it is something that was recently raised by the Commissioner for Equality, Tzozi Christodoulou, namely that there is a category of people who are, especially in mountainous areas, or in remote areas, who do not have sufficient knowledge regarding technology. "It is something we have seen very warmly with the Equality Commissioner, and we will work together to be able to help with these people." he added.

He noted that there are programs running in terms of education, both for businesses and for citizens, and there is a fund of around €30 million that will be allocated for technological education for citizens and businesses as a whole.

Source: KYPE 

Source: www.sigmalive.com

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