In the last few years ICT became a priority for several governments when the beneficial potential of such technologies for public administrations became clear. Portugal also decided to join this movement and since then major efforts have been developed to implement transversal policies to promote increasing efficiency in public services, closer services to citizens as well as costs reduction.
However, until very recently, the different bodies of the Portuguese public administration had enough autonomy to freely acquire and manage their technological infrastructures, as well as their information and communication systems. At the same time, those bodies could make use of such autonomy to create the departments they needed to carry on the management of those tasks, instead of developing shared tools, services and know-how inside the public administration universe. This isolated way of working was leading public services to a fragmented structure where communication was almost absent. As a consequence, ICT costs soared without a significant efficiency return. Instead leading public services to a higher level of efficiency and modernization, ICT were increasing bureaucracy and developing several isolated and closed “silos”.
This pulverization became one of the main concerns of the Portuguese Government’s “Program for Restructuring the Central Administration of the State” (PRACE) which was an attempt to promote the concentration of ICT management procedures, among other goals. However, this plan failed somehow to implement this vision across central administration and, in the end, only a few departments under some ministries achieved the goals proposed. It soon became obvious that centralizing ICT inside each ministry was not enough. Instead, the idea of a transversal strategy capable to put together in the same role the whole public administration started to emerge.
Later, in 2010, the General Inspectorate of Finance assessed ICT expenses in 44 different bodies of public administration from 2005 to 2008, and concluded, in a very important report, the urgent need for better planning and rationalization on ICT domains. This lack of organization was costing an average of 3,6% of the budgets from the public institutions analyzed.
Furthermore, this situation brought several inconvenient consequences to the whole Portuguese society in general. For common citizens, heading to a public services department became exhausting due to the bureaucracy procedures and long waiting time queues. At the same time, because there was no communication inside public administration, citizens were forced to go to different public services departments and fill different forms to solve one single problem. For public servants, the absence of communication and shared solutions and know-how increased the number of tasks to perform, leading to double efforts, over-consumption of financial resources and, in some cases to literal physical exhaustion. For companies and entrepreneurs, the increase of bureaucracy and fragmentation inside public administration led to significant problems which restrained new investment projects.
That was when the Portuguese Government formed the Project Group for Information and Communication Technologies (PGICT), in order to design a Global Strategic Plan for Rationalization of ICT Costs in Public Administration (PGETIC).