The Portuguese government has been one of the most innovative in implementing a one-stop-shop for public services with Lojas do Cidadão (Citizen Shops), an initiative implemented in 1999, offering centralized access to the main public services at one physical access point, at the same time that the digitalisation of the services was being carried out through the Portal do Cidadão (Citizen Portal). Now the initiative is being extended throughout the country with Espaços do Cidadão (Citizen Spots).
This project is a key element in the government strategy to modernise and simplify public administration and is integrated into the “Administração aberta + Simples + Próxima” initiative. The project began in 2014, mobilising public and private partners to develop an effective network of digitally-assisted desks, counting on municipalities and national postal services (CTT) as the main partners.
Since the beginning, the main purpose of the project has been to provide digitally-assisted public services throughout the country, bringing the excellent digital public services that already exist in Portugal to a significant section of the population without access to the internet or to digital services.
The Government wants to create a network of a thousand Espaços do Cidadão. This goal is expected to be 50% accomplished by the end of the mandate, in October 2015, and the rest should be implemented by the end of 2016.
The Espaços do Cidadão initiative provides digital services from multiple departments within the Portuguese administration, enhancing the potential of several existing eGovernment solutions. Some of the digitally- assisted desks are already in place in several municipalities in Portugal, putting in practice the multiservice desk concept integrated in the public administration modernisation and simplification initiative being developed by the Portuguese government.
At the same time that the digitalisation of public services and the online one-click access is evolving, the government wants to provide an easier way to use the services with the assistance of trained public servants, reducing red tape and reaching more users in the country. The Citizen Spots are located in town halls or post offices in small cities, with a minimum of two public access points, providing access to services such as the Citizen Card, civil registration certificates, social security and the tax services, healthcare and a multitude of other documents and registrations required by citizens.
Description of target users and groups
The project is open to all citizens but targets in particular those that have difficulties with access to public services. The latter belong to one of two groups: those with no access to the internet due to material limitations, and those that have access to the internet but have limited skills when it comes to actually using digital public services.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
The key partners in this initiative are the municipalities, with which the Government is establishing protocols, but the project is also open to private or third sector institutions that provide public services. This is the case with the national postal service CTT, which was privatized last year and hosts part of the Citizen Spot network. In addition to defining and providing the locations for these Spots, the partners provide the human resources and cover basic costs in energy and other resources.
A project of this scale requires a major effort, particularly to coordinate the multiple institutions involved. On the one hand, it was necessary to bring on board several departments of the central administration, to be able to offer their services in the front-office platform but also to have their back-office support; on the other hand, contacts were established with all municipalities. Regarding the necessary investment, the Agência para a Modernização Administrativa (Agency for Administrative Modernisation, AMA) is covering the cost of the equipment – a modular desk kit – and also providing training, with the involvement of the relevant state departments.
The technological solution is basically a multi-channel platform that allows the digital service assistant to link to the digital services platforms of the various departments. The system is similar to the one implemented in the large Citizen Shops (Lojas do Cidadão) initiative.
The project included an initial development stage, during which a tool kit was designed and the front-office digital platform was adapted to accommodate the new services. Simultaneously, institutional contacts were established in order to bring several government departments on board. Then followed a political stage, during which contacts were established with all the municipalities in order to present the project. Finally, these contacts resulted in the development of protocols. Meanwhile, AMA launched the public procurement process for the equipment and planned the logistics for both installation and training, which are currently taking place.
Main results, benefits and impacts
The project has tremendous potential as it will bring public services much closer to the people, particularly in rural areas where people have to cover longer distances to have access to these services. The project is also expected to have a positive impact on reducing or eliminating the backlog in demand for public service in larger urban centres, by providing alternatives closer to the residential areas.
The project should also have an impact on info-exclusion by assisting non-natives in becoming more familiar with digital public services. For this purpose, all the Spots are equipped with a double-screen system that allows citizens to follow the steps being taken by the assistant. So far, over a hundred protocols have been established with municipalities in continental Portugal, allowing for the implementation of around 350 Citizen Spots. A protocol has also been established with CTT for the installation of 300 Citizen Spots by 2016.
So far, there are 126 Citizen Spots already operating, 69 of which are in municipalities, 33 in the Lojas do Cidadão network, and 24 in CTT post offices. Around 80 services are already available at these spots including, for example, renewing driver’s licences or changing addresses on the Citizen Card. Over a hundred thousand of these services have been provided to citizens since the first pilots were launched in March 2014.
There are two videos available on the Espaços do Cidadão (Citizen Spots).
- PTGov: http://www.portugal.gov.pt/pt/fotos-e-videos/videos/20141006-madr-citizen-spots.aspx
- Youtube: https://youtu.be/i75CprHnEa0