Microsoft plans to spend up to $1 billion to build three data centers for its first cloud region in Greece and provide digital technology training to up to 100,000 people there by 2025.
The plans, announced today, are part of Microsoft’s “GR for Growth” digital transformation initiative to support Greece’s growth with technology and resources, according to the Redmond, Wash.-based technology company.
“By a substantial margin, this is the largest investment Microsoft has made in Greece in the 28 years we have been operating here,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith, who made the announcement today in Athens, where he was joined by Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Theodosis Michalopoulos, general manager of Microsoft for Greece, Cyprus and Malta. “In part, this reflects confidence that our world-leading datacenter technology can help enable innovation and growth across Greece’s economy. In addition, this large investment reflects our optimism about Greece’s future, its forward-leaning government and the country’s ongoing economic recovery.”
The announcement follows nine months of negotiations with Greece, according to an Associated Press report. The news is seen as a boost to the southeastern Europe country, which emerged from a tough decade-long government debt crisis that included austerity measures and international bailouts to see its economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and unemployment climb to 18.3 percent in June. Mitsotakis is trying to develop Greece’s technology, energy and defense sectors as part of the country’s recovery.
“This significant investment is a reflection of our confidence in the Greek economy, in the Greek people and the Greek government,” Smith said at a ceremony held in Athens’ Acropolis Museum, AP reported. “It‘s not something we do often, and it’s not something that we do lightly.”
The new data center region in Greece will bring Microsoft’s announced cloud regions to 63 covering 140-plus countries. Companies will get local access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and services, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.
Microsoft has 3,000 partners and customers, including startups, enterprises and non-governmental organizations, and Alpha Bank, Eurobank, National Bank of Greece, OTE Group, Piraeus Bank and Public Power Corp. – Greece’s largest electric power company — have expressed their intent to use Microsoft cloud services when the region opens, according to the cloud provider.
Microsoft’s commitment to train as many as 100,000 will be extended to public sector employees, business and IT professionals, educators and students to help support digital transformations of public and private organizations. The three-pronged program of online and physical courses and workshops will include upskilling of Microsoft’s customer and partner ecosystems; training designed for Greek civil servants covering public sector modernization and digitization needs; and expansion of Microsoft’s existing programs with the nonprofit ReGeneration innovation program that focus on youth, the unemployed and underserved communities and leverage its LinkedIn Learning, MS Learn and GitHub training programs. ReGeneration is part of the Global Shapers Athens Hub, a World Economic Forum initiative.
As part of its AI for Cultural Heritage program, Microsoft also said it’s collaborating with Greece’s Ministry of Culture and Sports to use artificial intelligence and other technologies to bring to life the ancient city of Olympia – the birthplace of the Olympic games — as it was almost 3,000 years ago through a 3D presentation of monuments and artifacts that will be available in 2021.