The Index of Digitization of Economy and Society (DESI, acronym in English, 2020) places Portugal in 19th place in Europe to 28, elevating the country to a global score structurally lower than the European average. DESI assesses each country’s performance based on five dimensions of digital: connectivity, human capital, use of Internet services, integration of technologies and digitized public services.
Those in which the country is better positioned, above the European average, are the dimensions of connectivity (12th) and digitized public services (13th). On the other hand, the dimensions where the country currently has more difficulty are the dimensions of human capital and use of Internet services, even occupying the last positions in the ranking (21st and 24th, respectively), according to data released by the Strategy and Studies by the Ministry of Economy and Digital Transition.
Portugal has an internet usage rate of 71%, below the 84% European Union average. Source: Strategy and Studies Office of the Ministry of Economy and Digital Transition
The area of digital empowerment of people in Portugal is the one that gives the most attention to the European Commission, noting that the country is also below the European average in the Women in Digital Index. In particular, in Portugal, only 15.7% of specialists in information and communication technologies (ICT) are women. The European average is also low, but above (17.7%). With regard to Internet use in general, the country has a rate of 71%, well below the 84% of the European Union average.
A plan with three pillars and 12 measures
A digital transition is one of the main banners of the current government. This resulted in the creation of a Secretariat of State specifically to coordinate this transformation of the country across the board, which triggered the launch of the Action Plan for the Digital Transition, in March 2020.
This plan is divided into three main pillars with 12 objectives. The first pillar intends to digitally empower people, through digital education, professional requalification and digital inclusion. This approach is made with the school and professional community. Pillar two refers to the digital transformation of companies, and here it is intended to boost entrepreneurship, focus on the transformation of SMEs and transfer scientific and technological knowledge to the economy. Finally, the third pillar, which aims to digitize public administration, focuses on the creation of digital public services, the promotion of agile public administration and the connectivity of regional public services.
Specifically aimed at public services, in early September 2021, the Council of Ministers also approved a Strategy for the Digital Transformation of Public Administration 2021-2026, together with the respective Transversal Action Plan for the period 2021-2023. This aims to create simpler, integrated and inclusive services, using technology and intelligent use of data. It is estimated that the implementation of this strategy, adequate compliance with the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR) amount to around 600 M€, will bring direct gains to the national economy in the same proportion.
On the ground, and focusing on the area where Portugal has the greatest deficit – a digital empowerment of people -, one can already see some of these goals being embodied in programs. Mention should be made, for example, of the Upskill project, for professional requalification, the Eu Sou Digital program, to include one million citizens who do not have access to digital platforms, and the More Digital Employment program, which gives digital skills to the working population.
“We cannot miss this opportunity to work on what is 21st century illiteracy. And to improve the international rankings, because this makes our economy improve with this training”, said Vanda Jesus, executive director of Portugal Digital, in the debate ‘Digital Transformation in Sustainability – Understanding the present, preparing the future’, organized by Jornal de Negócios.