Interview with Chrysanthos Manolis
The mere mention that in the first 70 days as chairman of the board of Cyta 20 sessions were held and 81 decisions were taken is indicative of the new very demanding and creative environment in which Michalis Ioannidis is now, after his appointment by the Council of Ministers in leadership of the organization's management.
He states that, after his first experiences in his new duties, he considers that the impression he had previously on Cyta, although good, was unfair to the organization. Coming from the private sector, he estimates that there are few private sector companies that can claim to apply the procedures followed by Cyta in relation to business: business planning, corporate governance, flexible working institutions, etc. “Cyta's employment status “, With small improvements, it could be a model of work culture and procedures for the entire public service.”
Cyta's role is crucial
Despite the short time as Cyta's board chairman, you have a first impression of the organization. Is it in line with what you had before you took office?
The image I had was that of the average Cypriot citizen, that is, that Cyta is a good semi-governmental organization, a reliable provider of telephony, internet and television. The reality, however, as I have seen it from the position of President of the Council, is multidimensional and my previous impression, no matter how good it was, wronged Cyta.
It is an organization with a modern business concept, great depth and range of work in critical sectors of the economy, society and the place in general. Through its submarine cables, Cyta plays a key role in connecting the Middle East with Europe and, through its satellite station, is directly involved in the rapidly growing space economy. Also, Cyta is the only European certified company in our country, to support the air navigation systems that manage the airspace FIR Nicosia.
At the same time, it plays a key role in the digital transformation of the place, with a direct contribution to the digitization of critical services that we all use every day. As examples I mention the “Smart Cities”, the GESY, the European Vaccination Certificate, the Cyprus Flight Pass etc.
Not coincidentally, Cyta operates more as a business than as a semi-governmental orphanage. To be precise, there are few private sector companies that can claim to follow Cyta's business procedures: business planning, corporate governance, flexible working institutions, etc. Cyta's working conditions, with minor improvements, could be a model of work culture and procedures for the whole public service.
How do you evaluate the cooperation that developed during this period between the members of the Council, but also with the Management of the Organization?
I answer you clearly that I find her excellent. Within 70 days we did 20 sessions and proceeded to make 81 decisions. We defined strategies on various issues and planned actions to be implemented. All this with unanimity and in a very good atmosphere.
But I would like to put my answer on a different footing. A council is a social system like everything else, a small society. It has limits of power, people independent of each other and defined roles. Its success is judged by honesty in relationships, the ability of each member to express themselves constructively, to disagree and to be respected. Equally important is the honest evaluation of everyone by everyone. These have been on our board since day one.
As far as Management is concerned, the tone on the part of the Council has been set from the beginning. Simplicity, speed, flexibility and innovation. They are the only features that are rewarded in technology companies. Closed structures and illusions of prestige are not allowed in our sector. These are characteristics that destroy companies in our field. We build on these principles together with the Management. This good relationship certainly reflects on the Chief Executive Officer of the Organization, Andreas Neokleous. Andreas and I have found a common ground since the first day of our collaboration and we have built a strong relationship of trust.
Your first move from the position of President of Cyta was to develop a strategy and align the organization's business plan with the principles of Sustainable Development. Why did you consider the issue as a key priority of your term?
Our decision to put the organization on the path to Sustainable Development was a self-evident decision we made at Cyta from the day we took over.
In the context of the evolution of culture, the activity of people and businesses has solved many problems. But, especially in recent years, development has created a number of new problems: the burden of the environment, climate change, asymmetry of information and education between social groups, social inequalities, poverty, etc. All these problems have created around us a complexity that affects societies, business, but especially people. The Sustainable Development Goals are the framework for solving these key problems. They compose humanity's plan for the future.
Within this framework, the modern perception of the role of a company has changed. A company does not exist only to generate profit for its shareholders, according to the prevailing perception of the past years. A business now exists to create solutions to problems through innovation and to balance profits with people and the environment. Businesses nowadays have to base their strategy on an ethical goal in order to operate in the complex world we live in. This ethical goal is served by the 17 goals of Sustainable Development.
In Cyta there were two parallel roads. On the one hand, the development strategy of the organization for the digital transition of the place and, on the other hand, the deep-rooted social responsibility and protection of the environment. On the one hand, the activity of the organization in the competitive environment and on the other hand the service of its public character. We want these two paths to be harmonized under one framework. To create a strategic and operational logic to achieve the goals of sustainable development and to have a moral purpose in our business and strategic plan. To achieve the necessary balance between profits, people and the environment, so that Cyta becomes the best corporate citizen of Cypriot society.
The fastest mobile network
How important is it for Cyta to make its mobile network the fastest in Europe? How important is this for Cyprus?
Cyta proves to everyone that a very small company, from a very small country, can be better than much bigger companies. This distinction is a historic moment for the organization and its people. But it is not the only first, it is just the most prominent.
For example, the comparison of Cyta's financial ratios with much larger companies, the fast geographical coverage of the 5G network, the rapid development of the FTTH fiber optic network, the complete recycling of its waste and more. Currently, together with the Chief Executive Officer, we have an ongoing benchmarking program and will soon have more information on Cyta's international position in the telecommunications sector.
But it is especially important that the successes of Cyta concern every Cypriot. Every Cypriot is a shareholder of the organization regardless of whether he is our customer. In this way, Cyta's distinctions and successes are a victory for each of us. On the strategic value of this success, we are building our digital future.
But what is the practical and immediate importance of increasing the speed of networks in the daily life of all of us? Strengthening the competitiveness of the economy, more jobs and increasing GDP. To be precise, there are studies that show that for every increase in speeds, by 10%, there is an increase in GDP by 0.2%. Cyta in the last year has managed to increase five times the average data speed of mobile networks, which in turn has a substantial positive impact on the Cypriot economy and society.
|Dominant role in digital transition projects|
What important projects can we expect to be rolled out or even completed during your term?
The works under study by Cyta are many and remarkable. Cyta is an organization that pioneers the digital transition of the place. It has a dominant role in almost all digital transition projects that take place in Cyprus.
In addition, we have started with the management a comprehensive review of the strategic plan for the next three years and very soon we will have a comprehensive planning. The goal is, at this point in time, to make the decisions needed to lead Cyta and the place into the digital age. I can say from now on that the strategic plan will contain a significant number of projects, in relation to the environment and sustainable development, as it concerns decisions that have already been taken.
Perhaps the project that stands out in the next one or two years is the creation of infrastructure and operational capabilities, to turn Cyprus into a data hub in the region. This general plan will take advantage of the ever-increasing global need for data transfer, storage and utilization, as well as the geographical location of Cyprus between three continents. This plan, of course, brings together three different large-scale projects in the submarine cable and data center sectors. The implementation of these projects allows the development of a new business model in Cyprus, which will support the overall strategy of attracting technology companies, while turning our place into a data hub between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
|The vision for Cyta|
What is your vision for Cyta that you would like to leave as a legacy at the end of your term?
On the day we end our term in Cyta, I would like the organization to be the pillar of accelerating the digitization of the place, in a sustainable way that suits its public character. We will do projects in this direction and I have told you some. But legacy is a much bigger concept. In technology organizations only people, their relationships and their perceptions create legacies that can influence the future. In this direction, I would like this Council to enrich the people of the Organization with such characteristics that Cyta can meet the challenges of the future, both for itself and for Cyprus.
In other words, we must leave behind the illusion of prestige provided by the successful sixty-year course of the organization, draw on this course the “soul” of Cyta and envision the next 60 years. To understand at all levels that in the next period anything that can be digitized, will be digitized. Realize that in this transition, our competitors are giant companies and seek comparison with them. To learn to cooperate with our competitors in Cyprus and abroad for the good of the place. To learn to set goals that at first seem impossible, but with dedication we achieve them. To acquire the characteristics that define the organizations in our field: Simplicity, speed, flexibility, innovation. This is the story of technology and the successful companies in our field and this we must transfer to Cyta DNA as a repository.