Prime Webinar #5, Digital Innovation in the Public Sector, took place last Thursday. Three influential professionals were present at the session: Miguel Brito Campos, current Senior Executive at PrimeIT and responsible for the company investment in the Public Administration; Pedro Rosa, IT Coordinator at DGES; and Paulo Barroso, DevOps Consultant at FCT.
To moderate this fifth episode, we had the support of Miguel Brito Campos. Miguel has a Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Instituto Superior Técnico and vast experience of more than 20 years in the Public Sector at the Project Management Level of Market and IT Management. According to his vision, “In Portugal there is a great dynamisation of platforms and infrastructures”, recalling that “our country belongs to an elite group in the European Union, called D9+, which are the 12 most digital countries within the EU”. In this way, Miguel reiterates that “we are leading this aspect of digitalisation and the availability of digital public services and platforms, which allows us to be at a level of excellence”. However, despite this placement, “there is an identified need, which is the ability of the citizen to be a digital citizen, to put more people to be beneficiaries of these services and available.” Related to the status of Digital Transformation, Miguel also highlights the importance of “the pandemic, which recently devastated us, because it partially accelerated the entry of some people into the digital world”.
With Pedro, we got to know the reality of the General Directorate of Higher Education on this journey of digital transformation: “the excellent universities and polytechnics that we have in Portugal are a motivating force for us to work and modernise services”. In the specific case of this institution, ”we have been now for many years relying on a large number of digital services, such as college applications, which have been exclusively digital for many years, or the access to scholarships”. For Pedro, this is one way to ensure that DGES is responding well to the needs of the market; however, it is always necessary to improve this offer and ”in the past three years, fortunately, the Government has offered finantal support to intregate the information systems, allowing us to answer to our users in a more capable and agile way, and asking for the lower amount of information posisble”. For it, DGES launched SIMGES, a project that consists of reintegrating the systems they have to turn them fully digital. As an example, Pedro mentioned that, even before the pandemics, they were already questioning the need to maintain, or not, in-person client service or which changes to make to the system. The confinement “was a motor to move faster and gain space for a new system.” This approach makes even more sense in the universe of scholarships. The IT Coordinator unveils that they have more than 90,000 users to be managed by a team of around 80 employees that would be unable to answer without being entirely digitised. Asked by this same need to reintegrate services in other areas of Public Administration, Pedro responds that the standardisation is visible, mentioning the interoperability platform of AMA – Agência de Modernização Administrativa, which exactly enhances the share of information between entities. An example of its functionality for DGES is precisely the cross of data – of Social Security and Finance -, for allocating scholarships after the applicant’s required authorisation. For Pedro, this dedication to digital transformation “is happening with all the institutions, and with the PRR – Recovery and Resilience Plan – we are starting to see more changes, which, for me, means we are on a good pat “. The relationship between DGES and PrimeIT, which has had “good results”, as the IT Cintegrater said, arose from the need to create an app to allow students to access information about scholarships and diplomas quickly through their mobile phones. This app is just another measure of the Directorate General to improve their offer to its target audience.
After these good examples, we return to one of the moderator notes, right at the beginning of the session: on the one hand, we are leading the EU in terms of platforms and services, but on the other hand, it is necessary to invest in the digital capacity of all citizens. For Miguel Brito Campos, there are three significant challenges, the first of which “is the need to create a greater awareness around the digital, because there are people who were still a little sceptical”. Some of these people have seen their perspective changed by the needs brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as “renewing the Identity Card, carrying out deeds or requesting official documents”. Even so, the High Executive states that it is necessary to continue this work, “with awareness-raising actions, with advertising spots, with information that states that there is no age to be digital, so that older people don’t assume this is not meant for their generation. Today’s world is digital, so for keeping everyone included, the citizen must also be digital.” The second identified challenge is training “because it is also worthless educating people who are not involved or motivated”. It is necessary to generate interest in the population and teach how to use different tools. Finally, the last one is to “continue on the crest of the hello” and maintain the investment that has taken place on platforms and digital public services, such as the case of “Chave Móvel Digital”.
The second participation in this Webinar contained the experience of those working effectively for these changes, as is Paulo Barroso, DevOps Consultant in FCT for PrimeIT, and who have embraced many relevant projects in reference companies in the market. The technology specialist agrees with the previous statement and mentioned that his institution also “has a great desire to update its communication with the target audience, in this case, with scholars and researchers, to facilitate access to the information provided by the FCT”. The project Paulo has been working on consisted of “an update of technologies, which had been making it difficult for users to interact with FCT and motivated a strong financial investment”. This project made it possible to offer “new applications, accessing platforms, more immediate and credible responses”. However, and like Pedro Rosa, Paulo also emphasizes that there is still a long way to go but believes that we will reach the goals if we maintain this effort. When asked about the need to integrate systems and re-educate citizens to be more technological, he replies that, in his personal view, “In Portugal, we are still far from reaching other European countries, despite the enormous effort to follow the trend and evolve”, but “we are embracing enormous projects” and “we have people aged 8 to 80 who want to interact more digitally” which proves the results of this transformation.
Through a macro view of this Webinar, focused on Digital Innovation in the Public Sector, we can conclude that, despite the considerable investment that has been made in the last decades in the development of digital services and platforms, there is still a consensus among the participants that there is a great need to implement a set of strategies and actions that aim to eliminate the “gap” that continues to exist in terms of the ability to use and explore digital across daily life.
PrimeIT has been, since the beginning of the year, working to build a team fully dedicated to the Public Sector to participate in the Portugal 2030 Program, in the Recovery and Resilience Plan of Portugal (PRRP) and other initiatives, contributing with the know-how acquired in the last 14 years. The Portugal 2030 Program and the PRRP stand out as clear strategies for what the country must contemplate in the coming decades, in a bold, ethical and genuinely visionary way, assuming a leadership position for Europe and the world. These themes, including Innovation and Knowledge; Qualification, Formation and Employment; Energy and Climate change, are also dominant in the projects developed by PrimeIT.