Portugal teams with Cisco on national digitisation plan
Cisco Portugal general manager Sofia Tenreiro

Portugal teams with Cisco on national digitisation plan

The Portuguese government have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Cisco to drive a programme of country-wide digitisation.

The focus will be on developing the infrastructure needed for the next generation of tech start-ups, as well as growing the right skills base and improving cybersecurity.

A meeting between Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, and the general manager of Cisco Portugal, Sofia Tenreiro, has led to an initiative that could have a tangible impact on economic growth, education, and innovation in Portugal.

Over the next two years, the new partners will work towards developing the country’s digital economy as part of Portugal’s National Reforms Programme.

Read more: Cisco announces $1 billion smart cities fund

Reshaping the Portuguese economy

Priorities outlined in the agreement include: providing support for entrepreneurship and business innovation; boosting startup activity; advancing the population’s digital skills, and applying the next generation of technologies to challenges in the public sector, education, industry, and cybersecurity.

The Portuguese government’s new digital strategy has startups and innovation at its core. To that end, Cisco will continue to collaborate with Startup Portugal in the key areas of security, mobility, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Cisco will also step in to provide local startups with access to its European Venture Capital initiative and Incubation program.

In a blog post outlining the agreement, Cisco chief Robbins acknowledged the potential for Portugal to be a major player in Europe’s technology scene.

Portugal’s digital transformation in recent years has been nothing short of incredible,” he wrote. “Cisco is deeply honoured to play a role in helping the country accelerate its digital economy to positively impact GDP, education, and innovation. Portugal has an already rich history, and I believe that with our collective focus on digitisation, it will become an even more dynamic and exciting place to live, work, and visit.”

Read more: NEC wins contract for Lisbon smart city project

Digitising the public sector

Portugal’s digital transformation is set to have a big impact on the public sector. The Cisco deal will include initiatives with several government ministries, including modernising public administration and the departments for health, justice, and defence.

Portugal’s four-year Industry 4.0 plan aims to put Portugal at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution by focusing on three areas: digitisation, innovation, and training.

Cisco’s role will be to bring its expertise to tourism, transportation, cities, and regions.

One example of this will be a programme with Turismo de Portugal. The aim will be to improve public Wi-Fi services and better analyse tourist behaviour to make the country’s historical centres more traveller-friendly.

Cybersecurity and Portugal’s digital future

One of the Portuguese government’s key aims is to design new IT infrastructure and systems that will protect its online services against cyber threats.

Cisco will work alongside the Gabinete Nacional de Segurança to make this happen, while consolidating the country’s existing digital infrastructure to drive more innovation and automation in government ministries.

Portuguese premier António Costa said, “By accelerating the national digitisation agenda, Portugal can increase GDP growth, create jobs, and improve digital inclusion for our people and businesses.

“We strongly welcome Cisco’s contribution to create a sustainable innovation ecosystem that will enable our country to better compete in the global digital economy.”

Cisco’s GM of Portugal, Sofia Tenreiro, said the company aims to be there to support Portugal’s progress in the long term. “Cisco Portugal values the opportunity this agreement represents, and is fully committed to work with the innovation ecosystem, including public and private organisations, schools, and academia, to accelerate the national digitisation efforts.

“Our goals are long term, and we want to play a significant role in the growth and competitiveness of the country.”

Internet of Business says

The simplicity and clearly stated vision of the programme reveals that, in politics, having a simple idea, communicating it effectively, and backing it up with real-world action can be remarkably effective. We wish Portugal luck with its bold and imaginative vision, and with the technology partnerships required to make it happen.

In the UK, for example, the new industrial strategy has been published and Whitehall has made encouraging noises about the essential role that digitisation, robotics, AI, and other technologies, will play in future economic prosperity.

Indeed, the UK is an acknowledged world leader in digital government and in digitising its public services.

However, in the UK responsibility for technologies such as AI and robotics now rests with a department with the most unwieldy and absurd brief in modern politics: the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and (for some reason also) Sport.

Or to give it an alternative name, perhaps, the Department for All That Modern Stuff that Citizens Seem to Find Amusing But Which Isn’t Proper Business Like Banking and Agriculture.

By bracketing these areas together, along with technology, automation, and the IoT, the British government risks suggesting to the world that these are the things it doesn’t know how to address or manage in modern society. The sooner it drops the ‘C’ and the ‘S’ from DCMS and replaces them with ‘T’ for technology, the better.

Culture is surely a collective output from society, the manifestation of human achievements in the arts and in many other areas of national and international endeavour. It isn’t something that ought to be lumped together with other things as an apparent afterthought. Sport, too, is a valuable, collective endeavour, and as such ought to merit its own brief. CM


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