Portugal closes the digital divide via suite of digital public services

Portugal offers one of the EU’s highest rates of digital public services. To ensure citizens use these services to engage with local and central government, this EU-funded project set up over 600 Citizen Spots – places where people can go and learn how to use the digital services they need. Not only has this resulted in the increased use of available services, it helped improve digital literacy across the country.

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A network of over 600 Citizen Spots across Portugal allows people to access government services online, for free. ©Portuguese Citizen Spots A network of over 600 Citizen Spots across Portugal allows people to access government services online, for free. ©Portuguese Citizen Spots

" More than delivering ICT equipment, training people, or even changing the way online digital services are offered, ‘going digital’ requires a complete understanding of the needs of citizens and local and central authorities working to meet these needs. This makes it possible to bring public services closer to those who really need them, while also closing the digital divide. "

Paulo Mauritti, Member of the Board, Administrative Modernisation Agency, Portugal

In Portugal, most public services are available online. However, the use of these digital services remains below expectations. To ensure that more people enjoy their benefits, the Administrative Modernisation Agency (AMA) established a network of locations where citizens can get hands-on help, with both basic digital skills and using Portugal’s online public services.

Citizen Spots, are free to use and people have access to a computer with a double screen. One is for the person providing the service to the citizen, called a mediator, to allow people to easily follow each step of the process.

Because the network of Citizen Spots was established in collaboration with local government authorities, the project ensures that each training programme provides information on central services (social security, taxes, civil registry, etc.). There are currently 631 Citizen Spots. Although most are in Portugal, there are others in Brussels, Paris, London, and São Paulo, ensuring this assisted model is available to Portuguese citizens living abroad.   

Empowering citizens

As seen by AMA, the project helps engage and empower citizens to use online digital services in a comfortable and autonomous way. In particular, the use of a mediator has proved to increase the user’s confidence in their digital skills and awareness of available services.

By bringing government services closer to citizens, the project is increasing the likelihood that they opt for digital solutions over traditional onsite services – a shift that could save both central and local governments considerable resources.

The project is about much more than simply increasing the use of government services. It’s also about fighting digital exclusion, closing the digital divide, and increasing the country’s digital literacy.

Going mobile

In addition to the Citizen Spots, the project recently launched Mobile Citizen Spots (MCS) and Solidarity Citizen Spots (SCS). MCS are located in vans that travel to remote areas, thus expanding the initiative into some of the most remote parts of the country – where digital services are often limited, if not non-existent. SCS, on the other hand, are geared towards the elderly. Consisting of a computer and a printer, these mobile spots are operated by a mediator who visits nursing homes to help residents directly.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Portuguese Citizen Spots” is EUR 5 818 790, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 4 628 364 through the “Competitiveness and Internationalisation” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period.

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