A modern artificial intelligence tool will put the Diplomatic and Historical Archive of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a digital highway. Through the project announced by the Information Society to transform the physical archive into a digital record, the practice of diplomacy and foreign policy will enter a new era. The digital archiving and microphotographing of 65 million pages of documents will turn a new page in the operation of the historical archive of Greek diplomacy.

Today, reviewing the millions of pages of the Diplomatic and Historical Archive is a daily practice and a necessary condition for subsequent diplomatic actions. This includes documents, correspondence, diplomatic actions, foreign policy results, etc. Its transition to the digital sphere is a one-way street, but also a necessary condition, as direct access to the information will be guaranteed in the shortest time, in whatever length of time the search requires.

Cutting-edge technologies

However, the digitization of the physical archive is not enough. For this, an Artificial Intelligence Conceptual Search Operational Tool will be created. Thus, virtual folders will be created, containing all the documentation material and related linked documents, in order to facilitate and speed up searching.

The project of the Digital Diplomatic and Historical Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a budget of 19.83 million euros (excluding VAT) and is financed by the Recovery Fund. According to the declaration, published in the Official Journal of the EU, the scope of the project includes the development of the Conceptual Search Artificial Intelligence Operational Tool, as well as the correlation of the relevant documents from all of the Ministry’s archival material.

In addition, services related to individual parts of the project are included, such as cataloging, digitization/microphotography, documentation, Intelligent Character Recognition (OCR, ICR), training of Artificial Intelligence Algorithms. These are necessary for the digital transformation and enrichment of the content of the Historical Archive, so as to achieve through training the implementation of the above-mentioned Artificial Intelligence Conceptual Search Operational Tool. The duration of the project is 32 months and the date of receipt of offers is 6/2/2023.

Digitization of 65 million pages

As part of the project, which will be carried out by the contractor within the facilities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the Registration Center that will be created, digital archiving of 65,000,000 pages of documents of various dimensions from the conventional format (physical file) to digital format will be implemented. The unsorted file will still be sorted. In addition, for safe long-term preservation and storage, microphotographs of the 65,000,000 pages of the archive will be conducted.

Digitization includes both the scanning of the selected files, as well as the cataloging and recording/documenting of necessary search metadata and their key elements in a specialized digital file management system. Therefore, the New Digital Historical and Diplomatic Archive of the Diplomatic and Historical Archive Service (DHA) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be created, which can be used from now on to conduct research. An information management system will be developed for the digitized material, but also for every new document-document that will be added to the digital collection over time.

Finally, the supply of necessary modern Information Technology and Communications equipment is foreseen, in which all the necessary structural elements of the requested system will be accommodated.

The Conceptual Search Artificial Intelligence Operational Tool will be the central tool for improving the administrative operation and service quality of the services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as upgrading the operational level of its services. Staff working conditions will also be improved and financial resources will be saved. The new system will minimize the processing time of requests, will allow access to the data to authorized users, while it will also facilitate access to the information sought and ultimately the formulation of relevant policy.