IN JULY 2019, the prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, appointed Kyriakos Pierrakakis MPP 2007 as minister of digital governance. Since then, Pierrakakis has overseen a dramatic transformation in how citizens interact with the government in areas ranging from real estate to driver’s licenses to health care. Pierrakakis had moved back to his home country after earning his MPP at the Kennedy School and his MS in technology and policy at MIT in 2009. He spoke with HKS Magazine about how his work has shaped the relationship between Greek citizens and the state.


Q: Greece’s Ministry of Digital Governance was formed in 2019 after a merger, then separation, of several precursor ministries. Even before the election, you had prepared for this new structure. How did you go about fashioning an organization that makes sense in today’s fast-moving digital era?

This new ministry was created by reassembling different IT parts of the government under a single roof, which happened on the Tuesday morning after the election and which required a lot of preparation. We also endowed the role of the minister with specific legal powers: veto power over all digital procurement of the state, the power to interoperate all the datasets of the state, and more. We thought these things through and recruited a very good team before the election from the public sector and from academia and the startup ecosystem of Greece. Having this plan enabled us to develop what we called the “Digital Transformation Bible,” a public document that codifies more than 440 specific projects that will be implemented in Greece by 2025.


Q: What were some of your initial goals for the new ministry?

I focused on how we could change our bureaucracy in Greece to make things cleaner and simpler, to facilitate interaction between citizens, corporations, and the government and the state: We thought in citizen-centric terms and life-event terms. This is a new culture for a government, and there was a cultural resistance to change. But with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, we had to ensure government continuity and state continuity in the same manner that businesses had to ensure business continuity. These unique circumstances accelerated everything.

Kyriakos Pierrakakis


Q: What are you most proud of so far?

We’re mostly proud of the creation of, the government portal, which offers more than 1,500 government services. It started in March 2020 with 500 services—now we have tripled the number, which has led to an almost hundredfold leap in digital transactions, from 8.8 million in 2018 to 772 million in 2022. Also, we designed the overall vaccination processing system in Greece, which was a joint effort between us and the ministries of health, the Greek army, which runs the logistics, and many other state authorities.


Q: What are potential uses of generative AI in government? What are the pitfalls?

We’re thinking about this a lot. Greece has developed a law for emerging technologies in anticipation of what will happen at the European level. For instance, we mandate that all companies using AI algorithms to reach, say, labor decisions, shall notify those who are affected by those decisions. So we have a culture of projecting our values through law to the deployment of technological systems.

We need to develop capacities with regards to using machine learning in all sectors, especially in the capabilities to read data, and to try to learn about the ways the government operates. This always should happen in a manner that’s commensurate with our core value system of human-centricity and transparency, and integrating fundamental constitutional and social values. And this is what we’re trying to achieve as Europeans; this is what we’re trying to achieve as Greeks.

Photos courtesy of Kyriakos Pierrakakis.

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