UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Greece’s Minister of Digital Governance lectures at IIPP

30 January 2023

In an enlightening talk for UCL IIPP MPA students, Kyriakos Pierrakakis explained how Greece went from being the “bad student” to the “good student”.

Kyriakos Pierrakakis from the Hellenic Ministry of Digital Governance talks to IIPP students

On 20 January 2023, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) welcomed Kyriakos Pierrakakis from the Hellenic Ministry of Digital Governance to give an enrichment session for IIPP’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) students, on Greece’s digitalisation endeavours.

“We were the very bad student, that became the good student,” Pierrakakis said.

Greece has a history of being bureaucratic state, where Pierrakakis noted ’it is easier to be born than die’. As such, the Ministry of Digital Governance is using the opportunity around digitalising services to also reduce administrative burdens and simplify citizens' access to services. At the heart of this efforts is government shift from being state-centric to citizen-centric.

To drive this change, Greece introduced two significant changes in the first 100 days in office. First it centralised procurement, providing the minister with the power to review and assess any major technology purchase across the government. This allowed the government to ensure any new work was aligned with the state’s broader goals of increased interoperability and citizen-centric vision for services. Secondly, the state gave the Minister the power to intervene and adjust the underlying business processes for any government service that spanned multiple ministries. This allowed the Digital Ministry to redesign and simplify services where historically, the work of coordinating different permissions and requirements across multiple ministries often fell to citizens. 

With these powers in place, Pierrakakis’ next priority when he took office as the Minister of State and Digital Governance in 2019, was to find out how many services were provided in the various ministries within the Greek government.

“It is the necessary ingredient to everything; to reform you need to measure,” he said.

The Ministry of Digital Governance worked together with each ministry’s permanent secretary for nine months to map and categorise all the services offered. In total, Pierrakakis found that the Greek Government has more than 5,000 services, descriptions of which the government has published online. Pierrakakis explained that this is the next essential step towards digitalisation, as they can now spot duplication across the government and try to harmonise processes. In addition, by doing the work in the open, he hopes additional accountability can be brought to the work.

Pierrakakis turned to other nations, such as Estonia, for advice. The consensus was that it would take eight years – one year for the law to be straightened, and seven years for developing the codes to build the digital centralised system. The Ministry consulted other governments too, including the UK, which was a digital government frontrunner, with its centralised website – .gov.uk. While he encourages governments to learn from others, Pierrakakis warned against copying other countries digitalisation strategies and urged governments to instead learn from their best practices and adapt them. In the case of Greece the Ministry opted for a more centralised model of digitalisation, but this will not work for everyone. 

Along the way, Kyriakos highlighted the challenges faced. Two of these were attracting the right talent and the procurement timeframes. He focused on how long procurement timeframes can derail projects.

Kyriakos Pierrakakis in a packed IIPP seminar room

Greece is navigating its digital journey in unique ways. The Ministry is looking to upskill its workforce, and is taking advantage of its public universities’ research centres. For instance, the prototype and digital COVID-19 certificate was created in a Greek university’s research centre. It was the first digital certificate in the world and quickly became the European Union standard. The Ministry focuses on making the most of its internal resources to shape solutions.

Pierrakakis concluded by sharing his advice to the gathered students, stressing the importance of getting as much as possible from the MPA experience, including by giving time to reading, connecting, and developing networks. He suggested reading the David Eaves’ Digital Transformation syllabus and Mike Brackens book on Digital Transformation, which he himself used as a guide in the Hellenic Ministry of Digital Governance’s journey.

"Most often in countries which face high levels of bureaucracy and low trust in government, it seems far-fetched, although ideal, to implement digitalisation. However, this ministry in the Hellenic Republic demonstrated artistic creativity and most importantly, a case study of hope for countries to get inspired by," says IIPP MPA student Dina Danif Richani.

The next MPA enrichment lecture will feature Darren Jones MP, chair of the UK Government’s  Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. In this role, he has been instrumental in recent years in scrutinising the UK Government’s industrial, innovation and science policies, climate change strategy, and approach to business regulation and corporate governance.

For more information

IIPP’s one-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) programme teaches the competencies and critical skills needed for purpose-driven organisations in the public, private and civic sectors.