How the iPad is helping save Greece

In the midst of a stormy economic crisis, Greece was able to save $140 billion in debt with the help of the Apple iPad and some great software.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/PeskyMonkey

Okay, let me be clear about one thing -- the iPad isn't really saving Greece. People are saving Greece. But, the iPad is helping them overcome big obstacles and move a lot faster than they would have ever been able to otherwise.

As I'm sure you've heard, Greece is in the midst of an apocalyptic economic crisis and there are plenty of doubters who don't see how the country will turn itself around any time soon. But, that doesn't mean people aren't still trying. For those who are working on finding a light at the end of the tunnel in Greece, they're getting an unexpected assist from the Apple iPad, according to a new report from Fortune Magazine.

The report explains that financial services wizard Bob Apfel helped Greece restructure its debt in April, reducing the total debt from $270 billion to $130 billion.

Apfel told Fortune, "It was the largest financial transaction in the history of the world, and we couldn't have done it without the iPad."

Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt explained how Apfel bought 100 iPads and used them to help facilitate the deal:

"Greece, as you may recall, was facing bankruptcy this spring, unable to make good on debts worth, on paper, more than $270 billion. In a series of complex restructuring transactions, the country's Finance Ministry had offered to settle for a fraction of the bonds' paper value. But getting roughly 100,000 bondholders scattered around the globe -- from Russia to South Africa to Kazakhstan -- to sign off on the deal on a tight deadline was going to be a logistical nightmare... The Apple tablets, equipped with a custom-made debt-restructuring app, were handed out to the leadership team, including representatives from the Finance Ministry, the Hellenic Exchange (the Greek equivalent of the NYSE), the Bank of Greece (their version of the Federal Reserve) and the three external banks that managed the deal, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Lazard. The idea was to give the participants a rich set of analytic tools and real-time, secure connections to both the global clearing systems and the back offices of banks around the world."

In the end, it worked and it saved Greece $140 billion. Greece is far from being out of the water yet, but this is a great example of people using technology to streamline difficult work and make a difference.

Of course, it's not just the iPad that made it happen. The iPad was just a super-friendly machine that any of the bankers involved could figure out how to use. However, the debt restructuring app and the powerful backend banking platform had a lot to do with pulling this off.

"Split-second decisions were made that couldn't have been made without the data platform," Apfel said.

IT professionals should take heart over this. Last week, I talked about how the combination of the iPad and the cloud were transforming IT. Well, this Greece story is an example of how there's still very important work for IT to do -- building apps and data platforms in this case -- even when the only thing users have in their hands is an iPad.