Believing in the digital revolution, but not investing in it

Optimists are more numerous than pessimists, for the first time since the era of the fiscal crisis in Greece. Recently, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises presented the results of the “The Pulse of Business” survey, as it has done every year since 2017. The estimate for the course of the economy is ‘good’ by 27.6%, ‘bad’ by 23.3% and ‘neutral’ by 49.2%. More than half of the respondents (53.2%) consider the course of their businesses to be ‘good’ (only 8.9% bad) and only 9.2% fear it will worsen (37% believe it will improve).

Regarding their company’s turnover, 52.1% believe it will increase due to “increased demand for their industry” and 33.3% thanks to “new strategic partnerships”. Few believe increased demand will be a result of higher return on investment (in research and innovation 13.4%, in facilities and machines 11.2%) or export growth (9.7%). By far the least popular answer is the one related to higher returns due to digital or ‘green’ investments (5.3%). That is, however, what Recovery Fund programs actually try to encourage.

The business world asks for reforms to be accelerated, so that the distortions faced by the business environment can be brought to an end. Two out of three respondents recommend the strengthening of transparency and ask for corruption to be fought and tax burdens to be reduced. More than half stress the need to modernise public administration,to  increase institutional efficiency and reduce the tax burden on labor. Again, the least popular answer is the one asking for the state to improve the country’s performance in R&D (28.1%).

Yet, almost 7 out of 10 respondents agree that the most important change in the work environment will come about through everyday use of artificial intelligence (AI). However, only 12% are using it – and just a little more than half of them (57.2% – that is about one in fifteen of the total) are thrilled about it. Yet 66.3% believe AI is the future of business and 74.7% say they will encourage employees to use it.

Modern society is being reshaped by developments in information and communications technology (ICT) from the late 20th century onwards. Greece has never been at the forefront of technological developments, but innovative entrepreneurial ideas have always been abundant. In June 2001 a special issue of Business File tried to describe the way new technologies will change traditional methods of conducting wholesale and retail trade, providing financial services, teaching, health care and delivering administrative services.