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In the event spoke the President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) Mr. Dieter Kempf, the Chairman of SEV Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, Mr. Dimitrios Papalexopoulos, and the Chairman & CEO of OTE Group, Mr. Michael Tsamaz.
Mr. Kempf, President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) focused on the problems created during the Covid crisis, new technologies and the need of common European actions. He acknowledged the challenges the German industry had to cope through the Covid crisis, which reduced the GDP of the country in the first quarter 2020 by 2.2% compared to the previous economic quarter, and according to BDI’s prediction will sum to a 6.5% dropdown by the end of 2020. Still, he pointed out that positive signs are coming from GfK and Ifo studies, next to the decisive actions that the German government took in order to protect companies experiencing challenges first seen in decades. Discussing about the economic figures that would help the economy to recover, he stressed out the need of rules on the fiscal assistance provided by the economic stabilization fund. Mr. Kempf suggested that the right future technologies and strategic economic areas, such as the health market, need to be the priorities right now. He called out the original national reactions of the member states as not optimal, and stressed the need to make the problem at hand a European Union problem, as it put the cohesion of EU into a test. For Mr. Kempf the future lays in co-operation in the EU, not only among countries but also among programs such as the Green Deal and the Recovery Plan. Not a single EU country could walk alone, in the same way that no single program could produce the expected results alone.
During the discussion that ensued, Mr. Kempf stated that the response of the telecommunications sector was much better than it was expected. Still, he stressed out that SME’s will need to better understand and apply the idea of digitalization, past teleconferencing, in their sectors, by investing capital and resources. He was optimistic on the steps already done by the German government on this side, in order to support public and private actors, and remained so when asked of whether those would be accelerated in the near future. He expressed the need of better supply chains in Europe and expressed his belief that Green Energy solutions could be a European field of collaboration among its industries.
His closing statement was on a positive note. The Covid has challenged old mindsets. A strong Europe will lead to a strong economy and a strong industrial sector, and that is what we will need to work for.
Mr. Papalexopoulos underlined the need to build closer links between businesses and society, and emphasized the importance of increasing industry’s share in GDP, through more investments and speeding up the pace of reforms.
He also noted that Greece’s response to the health emergency demonstrated the very good reflexes of the public administration and citizens alike, and helped improve the country’s collective confidence creating the conditions for the country’s positive rebranding and re-alignment on the global stage. He also underlined the importance of a united Europe, and Greece’s commitment to the European vision, especially at a time our continent faced important challenges.
Mr. Papalexopoulos added that the health crisis is forcing us to think differently and to act intelligently. Greece, he said, is called to rise to the challenges of the post-Covid-19 world and to restart its economy, which despite significant progress, appears weaker than its European counterparts’ because of the long financial crisis. He stressed the need for greater consistency and speed of reforms as well as a socially responsible and effective management of EU Recovery funds.
The main priorities for a dynamic restart of the Greek economy stem from the need to strengthen its productive base through increased investment in infrastructure, with particular emphasis on digital transformation, the green and circular economy, and improving skills throughout the workforce at a time when also international supply chains are being redesigned. Mr. Papalexopoulos also highlighted the emerging investment opportunities in many key productive sectors of the Greek economy including the agro-food industry, pharmaceuticals, energy efficiency, waste management and logistics, and the growth impetus offered by the country’s valuable human capital.
Mr. Michael Tsamaz, Chairman & CEO of the OTE Group in Greece focused his opening statement on the importance of telecommunications during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the readiness that OTE Group exhibited, . In specific, as he pointed out, the OTE Group managed to have 80% of its workforce working remotely within 72 hours, whilst its networks responded flawlessly to an unprecedented surge and relocation of demand. The daily data traffic in the time of the pandemic was increased 50% in fixed, and nearly doubled in mobile and at the same time OTE Group managed to transfer customer interactions to its websites and smartphone apps. This Mr. Tsamaz accredited it to the preparation of the company, as it has set digitalization as its top priority since 2016.
The head of OTE Group stated that the pandemic acted as an accelerator for the country's digital transformation and most businesses shifted to a new production model, emphasizing on the online environment. At the same time, ICT projects implemented by the State led to a transformation of the Greek digital landscape. The common denominator of the above was technology and OTE Group’s infrastructure. Mr. Tsamaz believes that all parties will apply the lessons learned, long after the crisis is gone.
Michael Tsamaz sees digital transformation as the main challenge ahead: “This means extroversion through e-commerce, IoT, cloud services, and enhancing customer experiences through digital channels and big data analytics. A change of mindset in the Greek businesses sector will lead us to the new phase of the 4th industrial revolution”.
According to Mr. Tsamaz, a research of SEV showed that 91% of Greek businesses consider digital transformation as a priority but only 48% have a clear digital strategy. As he stressed, OTE Group is working in order to provide the necessary tools for Greek businesses. It invests heavily in new generation networks, which are a prerequisite for digital transformation. Over the last 10 years it has invested approx. €5bn and it’s investing another €2bn in the next 4 years mainly for FTTH & 5G. At the same time OTE Group through its integrated technology solutions, it contributes to the improvement of the functionality of the cities and the increase of productivity and competitiveness of the private and the public sector.
When questioned about how the government and the EU facilitate the transition to the new digital age, Michael Tsamaz underlined that all stakeholders must work together. If the Government was to digitize all its transactions with the citizens, that would prompt businesses to digitize as well. He continued by saying that we need a strong Europe, with less bureaucracy and less regulation, which allows consolidation in order to create large and financially sound companies, able to compete against the US and China conglomerates.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Tsamaz focused on the topic of educating people from a young age to the new digital skills that economy and the companies will need. “With sheer will, strategic thinking and determination we can harness the power of technology, in order to provide better quality of life to our citizens and growth prospects for businesses”, Mr. Tsamaz noted.
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