All is calm on the Greek island of Chalki, where going slowly is a way of life. But bubbling beneath the town’s restful exterior, there’s something exciting happening.
It is the first of several small Aegean islands to be transformed by the Greek government, which recently signed an agreement to turn them into “green islands”. This marks the beginning of the “GR-Eco” project, which aims to make the islands independent of the national grid by providing them with renewable energy sources.
On the 5th November, Greece’s Prime Minister visited the islands to celebrate the project’s completion and discover how digital tools are bringing new possibilities to Chalki’s people and economy.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis meets students from Vodafone’s Generation Next programme
As part of this initiative, Chalki has received a solar power plant and a donation of e-vehicles for its public services.
Its telecommunications network has also been upgraded by Vodafone Greece, providing the island with 5G and IoT technologies to transform Chalki into a more connected and sustainable island. This has made a huge difference to people’s lives, upgrading their living standards, enhancing inclusion, and helping boost their economy.
A smart tourist information kiosk, a solar-powered bench, and solar-powered phone charging stations have also been installed in the town centre, and an IoT fleet control service is helping the town monitor its municipal vehicles.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis greeting a health worker in Chalki
Making healthcare more accessible
As is the case for many small Greek islands, Chalki does not have a hospital of its own. Instead, residents take the ferry to hospitals on larger islands for medical appointments – and in emergencies, they are taken there by helicopter.
To help solve the issue, Vodafone is providing an end-to-end telemedicine system to support patient management, monitoring and clinical care. This means they can get the care they need, when and where they need it. It also represents an important opportunity to help bridge the urban-rural divide through more efficient use of resources and better diagnosis and training.
Avina Arvanitidi, a doctor on the island, is optimistic about the impact this will have on the residents’ lives. “I hope that the Telemedicine program of Vodafone Foundation will shape a new reality for the future of Chalki and will help doctors in their everyday problems,” she said.
Avina Arvanitidi, a doctor from Chalki
Creating a new generation of digital experts
The “GR-Eco” project aims to prepare rural areas in Greece for the future – and education is an essential part of this. To build a new generation of digital experts on the island, Vodafone Foundation has donated a STEM lab and set up an exciting new summer school, Generation Next.
Generation Next offers free access to new technologies to teenagers, helping them develop their digital skills and learn how to apply them to solve real-world problems. This year’s programme resulted in children producing a brand-new app for tourists visiting the island.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis with students from Vodafone’s Generation Next programme
Evaggelos Iliadis, a teacher from Chalki, is excited about what these innovations will bring to the island’s young population. “The speeds the 5G technology offer will upgrade as a whole the learning process of our school and will help us overcome current problems we’re facing,” he explained. “It will also shape new opportunities.”
Evaggelos Iliadis, a teacher from Chalki
Working together for a greener, more connected Greece
New generation networks and digital technologies in places like Chalki are an important part of generating jobs and modernising Greece’s economy. Its transformation into a more connected, greener island serves as a valuable case study for rural areas on a similar journey all over Europe.
This certainly rings true for Angelos Fragakis, the Mayor of Chalki. “Chalki can be a role model in terms of actions taking and change of behaviors and attitudes,” he said.
Angelos Fragakis, the Mayor of Chalki
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