Networks of the Greek Diaspora and modern technology

By Dr. Christakis,Mediterranean Studies Institute. Presented at the 2nd International Conference “Hellenism in the 21st Century”, Melbourne, 1997

A. Introduction.

B. Networks of Greek Diaspora.

B.1. Cultural Networks.

B.2. Educational Networks.

A.2.1. Greek Education Abroad.

B.3. Communication and Media Networks.

B.4. Enterprise Networks.

B.5. A Registry Office for Hellenism.

C. The Greek Diaspora and the Use of Modern Technology.

C.1. Network for the Promotion of Educational, Commercial,

Cultural and Economic Exchanges.

C.2. Use of the Potential of the Greek Diaspora Through a Qualitative Registration and Evaluation.

C.3. Comparative Evaluation of the Way and the Character of Activities of the Greeks regarding the Country of Reception and Establishment.

C.4. Research on the Attitude of the Communities of the Greek Diaspora in Relation to the Country’s Affairs.

D. Conclusions.

A. Introduction.

The recent discoveries in technology and especially in computers, the opening of new possibilities in the communication sector and the wide diffusion of ideas are basic factors forming a favourable environment internationally for undertaking new initiatives. This context is a crucial factor that facilitates the realisation of the Networks of Greek Diaspora.

The realisation of the national strategy regarding Hellenism all over the world, through the establishment of the appropriate institutional network cannot be complete without the creation, development and good use of these networks. The new perspectives that are opening up world-wide form a new reality, that “imposes” on Hellenism to “lean on” its world-wide networks, always built and incorporated within long-established bilateral or multilateral relations. The establishment and functioning of networks among the dispersed communities of Hellenism, will create the appropriate bridges of co-operation in the relations of Greece with the hosting countries.

The essential Networks that should be established are the following:

a) cultural, b) educational, c) communications and media, and d) business and enterprises. In parallel, the establishment of the Registry Office for Hellenism will have to proceed faster.

B. Networks of Greek Diaspora.

A number of significant steps have been made regarding the organisation of the suitable institutional framework for Hellenism. However, there is a lot to be made with regard to the proper organisation and functioning of the networks for Hellenism. The organisation of Hellenism in that aspect is still focused on the conclusion of agreements in bilateral and multilateral level and in the development of certain activities. These networks should become the most important axis, as bridges for co-operation between Greece and the countries hosting the Diaspora.

The drafting of the legal framework for establishing the Foundation for Hellenism or the Foundation for Parliamentary Hellenism, which will include all the networks to be established for Greek Diaspora has proceeded satisfactorily. Furthermore, there is a progress in the establishment of the Registry Office for Hellenism designed to provide us with the information on the issues of where, who and how many are the Diaspora Greeks.

B.1. Cultural Networks.

The establishment and functioning of a number of branches by the Foundation for Hellenic Culture in Odessa, Alexandria and in London, will contribute greatly to the expansion of the Greek culture (classical and modern), the Greek language, as well as the various artistic trends in Greece. This initiative along with the forthcoming activities, planned to begin soon in a number of cities, like Bonn, New York and Paris, will constitute an integral part of the educational and cultural networks of the Diaspora.

These cultural activities have become a point of reference in the cultural life of these cities, and they contribute greatly to the creation of a pro-Greek trend. On the other hand, these activities bring together the Greek Diaspora, which lives, works and contributes constructively to the social, economic and cultural development of the hosting countries. The Hellenic Diaspora has the capability to act as a bridge of friendship and co-operation between Greece and the other countries, and leads to the establishment and development of constructive relations among the peoples of both sides.

B.2. Educational Networks.

The existence and functioning of Greek Language and Literature seats in a significant number of universities and other Research institutions abroad, is instrumental in the maintenance and further development of cultural and educational links with the political, economic and educational authorities in an international level. According to the Ministry of Education, 128 seats of Greek Language and Literature have been recorded.

In the process of forming a single strategy concerning the support of the aforementioned seats in universities abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in co-operation with the Ministry of Education have decided to establish a co-ordinating body. This body will be comprised by the Ministry of Culture, the General Secretariat of Hellenic Diaspora, and the Pedagogic Institute.

Within this context, the European Society of Hellenic Studies was established by the Ministry of Culture in August 1995, which will allow researchers and students to communicate directly with Greece. This society -which is housed at the National Book Centre- intends to promote the scientific research and teaching of the Greek language, literature, history and Greek civilization. Parallel to the above activities, the Ministry of Culture:

A. assists financially with grants the seats of Greek language,

B. finances translations of modern Greek literature,

C. grants scholarships for research on issues of Greek history and culture.

B.2.1. Greek Education Abroad.

An important part of the educational networks is the teaching network, which is concerned with the teaching of all the Greek children that live abroad in all levels, such as kindergarten, Primary School, Junior High School and High School.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in co-operation with the Ministry of Education is drafting a law concerning the teaching of the Greek schoolchildren that live abroad in a modern basis. At the same time, the Greek state has started the process of spreading and certifying the Greek language internationally. For the certification of the language, the methods that will be followed, are mainly the ones used by the British Council, the Goethe Institut, the French Institute, and others.

B.3. Communication and Media Networks.

The Greeks abroad were always facing positively any attempt for communication between the Greeks of the Diaspora and the Greeks of the metropolis. The profound need for communication between the Greeks of the Diaspora produced, on the first place, the result of a rudimentary communication network. The second phase is to pursue the creation of a modern network that would cover greater geographical units, such as continents. The need to communicate created the appropriate preconditions for the metropolis, in order to decide the development of television and radio networks to cover the Greeks of Diaspora. The response to this need and to the needs of the Greek merchant shipping, was the establishment of the Greek Radio and Television, and the Greek Radio 5. A few years ago, the channel ANT1 was established by the private channel ANTENNA in Greece, in order to cater for the communication needs of the Greek Diaspora in the USA.

The Ministry of Press and Information proceeded to a full registration of all the communication means, which are presently in operation in the Diaspora. This registration of all the newspapers and journals, as well as of all the radio and television programmes, which address themselves to the same audience, is imperative for a suitable future planning from the metropolis regarding all these dispersed communication means of the Greek Diaspora in the world.

The basic aim of the Greek communication policy is the co-ordination and co-operation in a common context of all these communication networks of the Diaspora towards the metropolis and vice versa.

Thus, the short-term aims for the communication networks, that they should be immediately realised, are the following:

* transmission of television programmes via satellite,

* the creation of the appropriate infrastructure and organisation, financing and continuous support of these programmes,

* support for the functioning of the media of the Diaspora,

* provision of the appropriate equipment for the newspapers and journals of the Diaspora,

* further education of the journalists that would be employed by the media of the Diaspora,

* the organisation of a world conference for the media of the Greek Diaspora,

* the promotion of close co-operation between the media of the Diaspora, the Greek newspapers and the Ministry of Press and Information,

* the registering and the full utilisation of the possibilities offered by the archives that can be accessed via Internet, through computers,

* the creation of a web-centre in the General Secretariat for the Greek Diaspora with an on-line connection with all the municipalities of the Diaspora and with all the universities abroad that have a teaching seat for Greek language.

Within the context of the above, other specific proposals that can be realised soon, are the following:

* the publishing of a journal or a newspaper addressed to the Diaspora Greeks,

* the compilation of a list of names of all the recipients of this publication,

* the creation or the upgrading of a department in the General Secretariat for the Greek Diaspora, which will deal exclusively with the media and communication policy for the Diaspora Greeks.

The largest part of these proposals should be commissioned to a special advisor with skills in journalism, who will undertake, co-ordinate and accelerate all the appropriate actions for the realisation of the communication networks. As a long-term aim, the launching and functioning of a Greek communication satellite (HELLAS-SAT), which will enable the metropolis to cover the Greek Diaspora in all five continents, is planned.

B.4. Enterprise Networks.

Together with the organisation of the cultural, educational and other networks, prominent is the need to develop further the economic, commercial and investment activities between the Diaspora and Greece. The most appropriate way to achieve the above aim is the immediate creation and activation of concrete enterprise networks in international level.

The geopolitical and geo-economic location of our country, certainly allows the undertaking of initiatives in the eastern Mediterranean region and particularly in the Middle East. There are certain possibilities of maximising the benefit from the activities of the Greek Diaspora in other geographically remote areas of our planet, like in Latin America.

The actual maximisation of the benefits of this interregional co-operation between the gatherings of Hellenism from all over the world, will allow the national centre to play an important role in the economic sector and to upgrade its position in the international division of labour.

Aiming to assist in the planning of realisation and activation of these enterprise networks, the directly involved networks along with other state and private organisations, should act in common and move with determination in order to materialise the following proposals:

* the conclusion of regional agreements of economic and commercial co-operation,

* the maximising of the benefit along with the further extension of the already existing regional agreements of economic and commercial co-operation,

* the conclusion of agreements for the construction of port installations, that would serve in common the commerce of the Diaspora and that of the hosting and the neighbouring countries,

* the conclusion of agreements for the creation of free port or commercial zones,

* the foundation of common investment and development banks,

* the common training of executives in order to widen the already existing commercial activities,

* the foundation of common chambers of trade and commerce,

* the common organisation of enterprise conferences.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in co-operation with the Ministry of National Economy, the Ministry of Development and the Ministry of Education, on the one hand, and the General Secretariat for the Greek Diaspora, the Hellenic Association for Local Government and Development, the Hellenic Organisation of Medium-Sized Enterprises and Handicrafts, and the Organisation of Export Promotion, on the other, along with other private and state organisations, should proceed in undertaking and realising a series of initiatives, always within the context of the general strategic planning of Greece.

B.5. A Registry Office for Hellenism.

One of the basic steps towards the realisation and activation of the networks of Hellenism is the creation and maximisation of the benefit from the activities of the human networks of the Greek Diaspora. Within the context of this strategy, Greece has proceeded to the establishment of a Registry Office for Hellenism, based in Thessaloniki.

This attempt is of considerable national, economic, and cultural importance for the future of the ties between the Greeks of the Diaspora and those of the metropolis. The need to fully register the names of all the Diaspora Greeks is necessary and indispensable. Nothing has been done until now regarding the utilisation of these records of the Diaspora.

All the Greek embassies and the consulates should create an archive to include not only the records of the generations of Greeks that migrated to other countries, but also the records of their generations that followed. The registration of all the names of the Hellenism in Diaspora and their interconnections will greatly contribute not only to the establishment of the aforementioned networks, but also to their appropriate use.

C. The Greek Diaspora and the Use of Modern Technology.

The basic and original goal is the creation of an Information Network for the people, enterprises, as well as the scientific and social institutions of the Greek Diaspora. This network could be called HellasNet and be accessible via internet from anyone interested.

This network will provide the framework to endorse all the data and information that could be interesting to the diaspora Greeks or to the ones in the national centre. This information could be for affairs concerning the Diaspora Greeks, such as responses for what to do when they return to Greece, affairs regarding their finances and investmenst back home or even the obligations of their sons towards the Greek army. Furthermore, it could be responses to affairs like commercial or business co-operation, tourism or even searching for certain data. This network will not substitute the existing ones, it will rather undertake the role of the basic network and of the means to connect the smaller networks that interest smaller groups of users.

This network should evolve using at the same time all the infrastructure and the know how developed for other parallel activities (such as the Registry Office for Hellenism, the connection between the Diaspora Greeks and the National Centre). This goal will have to be accomplished through a close co-operation and co-ordination between Greece, the Research Institutes of Hellenism and the community (or other) organisations of Greeks, globally. In fact, this effort will be facilitated further, when its realisation will be combined with other ongoing or planned projects (initiated from public or private institutions).

Indicatively, the proposed network system could include data and services such as the following:

1. A who-is-who of the human resources of the Greeks in Diaspora and Greece.

2. A database of Greek enterprises internationally and in every sector of industrial, commercial, services or other business activity.

3. An analytical database of services and organisations concerned with Hellenism all over the world.

4. An analytical database with the laws concerned with military service, resettlement, investment et alia equally important to the Diaspora Greeks.

5. A bulletin board regarding the offer and demand for jobs etc. classified in sectors such as commerce, industry, services or other business activities.

6. Organisation of a system of automatic information filtering and distribution with e-mail or fax to the interested subscribers.

All the above networks will have to be based on the use of internet, which will greatly facilitate not only every kind of access to, but also the collection and distribution of all the above information. In particular, the whole undertaking is referred to the creation of an electronic system of collection, classification and distribution of information (like a major data base). ?his system with the appropriate software will open up the following prospects:

1. the creation of a Network of Educational – Commercial – Cultural and Economic Exchanges based on the model of the European Network BC-NET.

2. the prospect for the appropriate Use of the Potential of the Diaspora Through a Qualitative Registration and Evaluation of the Personal Data of all the Greeks World-wide.

3. a Comparative Evaluation of the Way and the Character of Activities of the Greeks regarding the Country of Reception and Establishment.

4. a concise research on the Attitude of the Communities of the Greek Diaspora in relation to the Country’s Affairs.

For each of the above the following should be mentioned:

C.1. Network for the Promotion of Educational, Commercial, Cultural

and Economic Exchanges.

A network called BC-Net has been created in the E.U. aiming at widening the scope of communication among businessmen regarding the demand and offer of products in order to increase their sales and decrease the cost of collecting essential information both in terms of money and time. More recently, another network called ECoNett was created with Community funding in order to provide information in issues of environment and tourism.

The establishment of the proposed network (HellasNet) could be achieved with the appropriate use of the Community know-how. The funding for the establishment of a network such as this could be obtained from the Greek government, from other interested economic, commercial and industrial organisations and last but not least from the Diaspora organisations.

C.2. Use of the Potential of the Greek Diaspora Through a Qualitative Registration and Evaluation.

Parallel to the creation of HellasNet, an effort should be made not only for the quantitative but also for the qualitative registration, classification and evaluation of Hellenism in Diaspora. This can be done based on the following steps:

* Defining the methodology and the relevant qualitative criteria of evaluation.

* Defining the basic theoretical concept and the terminology to be used.

* Establishing a homogeneous pattern for definitions and criteria.

* Establishing the correlation between definitions and data.

The database that will be created should be able to provide -through an appropriate evaluation- a plethora of qualitative data enabling anyone interested to correlate with them. This database will, nevertheless, be a complementary database along to the other ones existing already and containing quantitative data without any major correlation or cross-evaluation yet. This effort will render a potential tool to be used for a multitude of purposes both from the societies of the Diaspora Greeks and from the national centre, especially on defining and planning any long-term policy.

C.3. Comparative Evaluation of the Way and the Character of Activities of the Greeks regarding the Country of Reception and Establishment.

An evaluation of the way and the character of the activities of the Greeks in Diaspora in the countries that are hosting them is extremely important. Following that, it is imperative that we compare and correlate with these activities among the Greek communities in Diaspora.

This comparative evaluation could be realised with the definition of the following:

* Methodology of research (criteria and questionnaires).

* Historical background (archive research).

* Definition of social values.

* Behaviour and intended actions to achieve certain targets.

* Comparison with other “international” communities (like the Italian and the Spanish).

* Ways of incorporating this research programme within the software designed for HellasNet.

This comparative evaluation will contribute to the formation of certain indicative forms of action in relation to geographic or other criteria. This would be particularly important not only for the national centre for defining its long-term strategy for the Diaspora Hellenism but also for the Greek Communities all over the world in order to predict and plan their future actions.

C.4. Research on the Attitude of the Communities of the Greek Diaspora in Relation to the Country’s Affairs.

The research on the attitude of the Greek Communities in Diaspora in relation to the country’s national affairs is really important. The crucial importance of this research is highlighted especially on critical periods for the country’s affairs, when the political leadership is in need of all the assistance that can get internationally in relation to the proper propagation and support of the country’s affairs.

This research should be realised after the definition of the following:

* Historical research.

* Ways and methods of reaction.

* Formation and mobility of pressure groups.

* Co-ordination of activities between pressure groups and the national centre.

It is generally accepted that in the majority of the countries where the Greek communities are active, they hold an important role in the political activities and they usually form an accountable pressure group for lobbying. Still, the national centre is in search of the way to use properly the potential of the Diaspora Greeks and produce the expected results. The appropriate use of the research will definitely contribute to the formation of the proper long-term strategy always together and in relation with the representatives of the Diaspora.

It should be noted that all the aforementioned are just a preliminary registration of issues directly related with the organisation and the proper functioning of the networks of Hellenism. This aims in assisting to the planning of the relative steps and actions. However, in case of undertaking the task of realisation of these initiatives all the aforementioned will need to be studied further.

It is apparent that for the submission of an integrated and well-studied proposal for the creation of a network, we need to undertake first a feasibility study which should include the following phases:

1. Definition of the extent and range of the network system (number of users, number of co-ordination centres), which pre-supposes:

* evaluation and registration of the technology used by the potential users, and

* evaluation and interconnection with other relative -under realisation or planned- actions.

2. Classification, registration and analysis of the data (structure and themes to be covered) of the functioning and the services that the system will provide.

3. A thorough study on the demands and the configuration needed with regard to hardware and software, as well as on the methodology of the evolution and integration of the network system.

4. A study on the funds needed to make the proposed system operational.

5. The development and the pilot-operation of part of the system which will support -in a small scale originally- some of the functions and services that the network system will have to offer.

It is absolutely necessary to conduct a feasibility study with the aforementioned phases. It is suggested that the primary goal could be the creation of a network connecting the Research Institutes of Hellenism with their active involvement.

One of the research institutes can undertake the technical part of the feasibility study, whilst another institute may undertake the task of the connecting link between the institutes and the bodies of Diaspora. The latter institute will contribute decisively to the collection of the needed information (such as the number of users, technology of the computers they use, the way the existing databases are formed) and to the definition of the thematic sectors of the services that the system will provide.

D. Conclusions.

The endeavour to create these Networks of Hellenism, is one of the efforts that Greece should undertake in order to confront successfully the rapid transformation of the world society.

The Research Institutes and Centres that participate in the Co-ordinating Committee of the Research Institutes of Hellenism (C.C.R.I.H.), will be called to undertake an important role, regarding the effort that should be made in order to unify and organise their new role internationally.

The realisation of the proposed national strategy imposes the immediate creation, development, integration and ample utilisation of the Networks of Hellenism. It is expected that these networks will maintain, strengthen and establish the wave of pro-Greek sentiments in the societies of the third countries and especially in those that host great contingents of Greeks.

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