January 2006

 GRNET: Increasing SME Competitiveness and Productivity through e-Business
Founded in 1998, the Greek Research and Technology Network (GRNET S.A.) is a state-owned company under the supervision of the Hellenic Ministry of Development and the General Secretariat of Research and Technology. Its mission is to provide high-quality international and national networking services for Greek academic and research institutions, to support research and educational activities in the public and private sector, to promote ICT use in the public and private sector, and to expand the Information Society (e-Government, e-Learning, and e-Business). GRNET supports national and international initiatives that integrate e-Learning, Internet technology and its applications within the Greek business environment.

Two of GRNET’s initiatives were selected as European Best Practices, the Greek Go-Online (www.go-online.gr) programme and the e-Business Forum. Both programmes promote the use of network technology and its applications in the Greek business environment by focusing on small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are important for the country’s economic growth, technological progress, and the creation of new jobs. GRNET’s initiatives help SMEs increase competitiveness, business, and productivity. 

The Go-Online programme’s primary objective is to encourage 50,000 SMEs to use the Internet to meet new market demands requiring e-business knowledge. GRNET and local consortia comprised of academic and technological institutions, chambers of commerce, and private businesses supervise the programme. To date, more than 20,500 SMEs from around the country have applied to participate in the Go-Online programme. Of these, 9,700 have already received funding to acquire the necessary infrastructure, and more than 6,200 have received training support. Training is free, and has been carried out so far by 950 selected ICT trainers. The programme also provides continued support through a central call centre, and web-based and regional help-desks. In addition, the programme develops and distributes Informational and educational material on e-business practices, and organizes information days specially adapted to the local economy in every major Greek city.

The e-Business Forum (www.ebussinessforum.gr) strives to create a favorable digital environment for Greek SMEs. The forum operates as a consulting mechanism, bringing together the Greek government, academic, and business worlds for the exchange of ideas and expertise, and the increase of e-business knowledge. The working groups focus on issues concerning the penetration of technology in the electronic economy, and suggest measures to the government that will increase the success of e-business. With the participation of more than 600 experts, the Forum provides continuous information to citizens and businesses, as well as feedback to government decision makers. The e-Business Forum’s work has already won the trust of the Greek business sector and is considered a flexible means of contact between the public and private sector.

The e-Business Forum has developed five successful programmes:  

  • The Go Digital Programme (subsidies to 50,000 SMEs for Internet connectivity and creation of commercial websites).
  • The "Get Trained to Go Digital" programme (training program for 50,000 SMEs).
  • The "Business On Line" programme (subsidies for more sophisticated ICT and e-business investments for 2,000 SMEs).
  • The "Digital Content" Programme (Funding for 25-30 for the creation of critical digital content).
  • The "E-marketplaces" Programme (Creation of 30-40 vertical e-marketplaces).

GRNET’s activities and initiatives thus far have met with great success. The company is now planning to develop the new generation optical ultra high-speed (1-5 Gbps) Internet, and to provide the possibility of Multicast and IPv6 networking services, and Virtual Networks (VPNs). GRNET is also planning the development and dissemination of advanced distance e-learning applications, Ultra-computer systems, and GRID interconnections.

GRNET intends to continue being the forerunner and motivating force in the development of advanced telecommunications networks and services, at the national and international level, to promote partnerships between the academic research community and industry, and to promote the accessibility of broadband networks to a growing community of users in Greece.

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