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Portugal’s digital transition journey

Portugal is one of the countries who has invested early on digital transformation and sustained it over the years to be among the world’s leaders in digitalization. It is a member of Digital Nations, a group of leading digital governments — whose founding members include Estonia, Israel, South Korea, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—that aims to use technology to benefit their citizens.

Last 2022, I had the chance to meet with Minister Bernardo Ivo Cruz, Portugal’s Secretary of State for International Trade and Foreign Investment, and Ambassador Maria Joao Lopes-Cardoso. We’re hoping to forge digital cooperation so that we can learn from their experience and best practices. Portugal’s action plan for digital transition reflects the strategy defined for the country’s digital transition that is composed of three main pillars — capacity building and digital inclusion; businesses’ digital transformation; and public services’ digitization.

The first pillar is focused on ensuring that no Portuguese citizen is left behind in the country’s digital transition. Thus, digital inclusion and empowerment is a priority. The country’s strategies include technologies integration in the basic and secondary education curricula. They aim to provide children and young people with the necessary learning opportunities and tools for their full personal and professional fulfillment.

Another strategy is the development of a national program for the reskilling of workers, employed and unemployed, as professionals in the area of ICT. This involves an intensive training period of six and nine months, using the polytechnic network for theoretical training, during which trainees are financially supported by the Portuguese government, followed practical training in the workplace and their professional integration in a company.

They also have an Adult Digital Inclusion Program aimed at training adult citizens in basic digital skills to ensure digital inclusion. This will reduce the number of Portuguese citizens who have yet to take advantage of the benefits of digitization in various fields, such as access to information and use of public digital services.

For the second pillar of its digital transition action plan, the focus is on the digital transformation of business environment. This includes support for investment, stimulate digitization of companies, and raise awareness and training, especially of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).  One of their programs is the Digital Innovation Hubs, which are collaborative networks that include specific digital competence centers, with the purpose of disseminating and promoting the adoption of advanced digital technologies by companies, particularly SMEs, through the development, testing and experimentation of these technologies.

The third pillar of Portugal’s digital transformation is focused on serving their citizens better every day. Their aim is to ensure simplification and efficiency of public services.

Among the country’s initiatives on this area is Portugal’s flagship program for administrative simplification, SIMPLEX, which was launched in 2006. This digital strategy has focused on critical services of health and justice and cutting red tape. Its main objective is to make life simpler for citizens and companies in their interaction with public services, contributing to a more competitive economy and a more inclusive society.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from Portugal’s experience, especially since a priority of the Philippine government’s digital transformation is improving government productivity and efficiency in terms of delivering public services.

Like Portugal, our aim is to become a digitally competitive nation where no citizen is left behind.

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