Where did hosting the IGF leave Greece on the internet?

 by Martin Belam, 7 November 2006

It has been a few days to allow the dust to settle following the IGF meeting in Athens. I was pleased to see the case of Antonis Tsipropoulos and blogme.gr being referenced in the BBC News coverage of the IGF, and that Kieren McCarthy also ensured it was referenced in the meeting itself.

The Greek minister, acting as chairman, was less than happy about the Greek blogger arrest being brought up, and I'm pleased to say I am completely to blame for it.

In his blog post Kieren also wrote a superb rant about the internet access within the event.

You reach a certain level of frustration and then, suddenly, you relax. The struggle becomes impossible and then you realise that, ultimately, it's not that important. You're still breathing air, you still have legs, this will come to an end.

What on earth am I talking about? The mild insanity of hosting a global, revolutionary Internet conference and then failing to allow anyone to actually access it - the Internet, that is. The wireless access, despite endless complaints yesterday, is still not working at the Internet Governance Forum. This is a mild irritation for most people, but as the mug who is supposed to be officially reporting on what is being discussed online but who is unable to be in the room and online at the same time, it is mind-meltingly annoying.

It isn't helped by the fact that the Greek hosts have assured me - and others far more senior than me - that providing me with a wired connection is "impossible".

Having endured six months this year being told it was impossible even to put fixed line telephony into my house in the middle of a built-up area in one of Crete's largest cities, I had to smile.

As I've mentioned before, Greece has the lowest use of the internet in the EU, which made the use of the phrase "digitally homeless" by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis to describe the 'migrants, refugees, the unemployed, the young and the people with disabilities' who did not have access to internet services bizarre. 73% of Greek people have never used the internet, regardless of whether they fit into the 'impoverished' category described by Karamanlis.

Just after the IGF closed, Sugarenia posted an excellent rant on "Why Greece will never succeed - Internetwise" which pretty much summed up why Greece isn't getting ahead online - the cost of access, the quality of service like that experienced by Kieren, and the idiotic application of law like that experienced by Antonis Tsipropoulos.


I've just managed to get DSL here in Thessaloniki after a three - month wait (I was told that I'd wait no more than 12 days). To tell you the truth the service is an expensive luxury for me and out of reach of many household's budgets.

As long as the state telecommunication organisation (OTE) insists on demanding 20- 50 euros a month on top of the service providers charges I don't see a great change in the number of people online in Greece.

I haven't really realized that my post was so current with the events in Greece.

These were thoughts that filled my mind for so much time now, I'd thought I'd burst.

It's a sad situation, really. Especially all those Greeks that don't know (and subsequently fear) the Internet.

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