Citizen Spots (CS)
Administrative Modernization Agency

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
For the past decade Portugal has implemented several public policies and measures aiming to provide simpler and better integrated public services, both onsite and digital, to its citizens and companies. In this context, digital public service delivery has grown exponentially in the country, providing citizens with the advantages of such electronic approach: no paper-based bureaucracy, no time and geography barriers nor other physical-related constraints – while benefiting from more integration and efficiency of the public administration itself. Despite this, the usage of such services by citizens and businesses has been far below the supply and, in 2014, it became unquestionable for the Portuguese government that we needed to go further and develop a means to make the abovementioned advantages accessible to all the population. To do so, we had to identify and tackle the obstacles behind the low demand on digital public services. Such obstacles included five major issues that affected mainly the economically insufficient, the elderly and those living in predominantly rural areas of the Portuguese territory: 1. Insufficient digital literacy; 2. Lack of trust in digital public services delivery; 3. Lack of sufficient infrastructures and bandwidth throughout the national territory; 4. Citizens’ eventual financial constraints for acquiring the necessary equipment to access digital services; 5. Complex and outdated processes, which often merely reproduced digitally what was done on paper. To address these constraints, a new approach to deliver services was required. An approach that would ensure the provision of digital services to citizens and, simultaneously, face-to-face assistance and training to those citizens in their interaction with public services, as a means to promote digital inclusion to all Portuguese population regardless of age, demography and digital literacy. At the same time, foster greater transparency in the public services delivery also emerged as a way to contribute to an increase of trust on the governmental authorities and on the digital services themselves. As so, to meet all these demands, a new hybrid model of delivering services was set up to reach the national population, “demystify” the potential of the digital services and grant citizens access to such potentialities: the nationwide network of Citizen Spots.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The Citizen Spots are a key element in the Portuguese government strategy to simplify and bring digital public services closer to citizens, while teaching them how to use such services. The Citizen Spot consists of a physical desk where citizens go to use a wide range of digital services, with the help of trained civil servants or private attendants - the “citizenship-mediators” - that demonstrate and explain citizens how to perform the digital service by themselves, thus promoting digital literacy and bridging the digital divide. The current 432 Citizen Spots are located in town halls, parishes or post offices throughout the country, providing access to services that go from civil registration documents to social security and tax services, and a multitude of other services citizens commonly need and use.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The initiative brought digital public services closer to citizens, by installing a network of 432 Citizen Spots all over the country, and further promoted their digital inclusion, by providing them with a trained attendant – the “citizenship mediator” - to teach them how to use such services. The project was developed to reach all citizens but revealed itself to be quite effective to those that have difficulties in using and accessing digital public services: citizens living in remote locations, having no access to the Internet due to financial constraints or citizens who have access to the Internet but have limited skills when it comes to actually using digital public services. Citizen Spots bring public services much closer to the citizens, particularly in rural areas where people have to cover longer distances to have access to these services. In fact, Citizen Spots have as one of its principles to be installed based on the demographic distribution and population needs, ensuring priority assistance. Furthermore, the places chosen for the installation of the network also tend to be areas covered by public transport services. This initiative also has a substantial impact on info-exclusion by assisting digitally unskilled people in becoming more familiar with digital public services, namely showing them what exists and how to actually use it. For this purpose, all the Spots are equipped with a double-screen system (one screen for the assistant serving the citizen and other in front of the citizen) that allows citizens to follow the steps being taken by the assistant, who is acting as a “citizenship mediator". This also covers issues of trust and transparency, given the fact that citizens can clearly see the steps they have to accomplish to access to different public online services, hence leading to confidence, learning, and capability of replication and exploitation of new functionalities and services. In parallel to this learning process, there is the social equity boosted by the initiative, namely since elderly citizens and population from peripheral regions further away from metropolitan centres can assimilate, in a single place, many different skills and practices, enabling not only their digital abilities but also their relation with Public Administration. From the public administration perspective, the network of Citizen Spots eased the workload of a number of public entities, who are currently more widespread throughout the country. This reduced waiting times for citizens, who are now able to access a set of public services in a simpler and more accessible way and solve minor problems faster, in a more personalised way. On the other hand, the Spots are 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 residential areas. Finally, it is worth to mention that Citizen Spots are also being installed in Portuguese consular posts, to ensure equal access to Portuguese citizens living abroad. On June 2016, the first Citizen Spot abroad was opened in Paris and this year the second citizen Spot will open in São Paulo, Brazil, being expected to open two more – in Brussels and London – by the end of 2017.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Citizen Spots materialized a new approach of delivering services to citizens and businesses, and an innovative model of working within public administration itself. It represents an innovation on several fronts, namely: • The unique way of delivering public and private services, in what may be regarded as a hybrid model that provides both onsite and online services, with the added value of providing education and training to all citizens in their digital interactions with the government and other private service providers; • The redefining of processes: numerous entities worked together breaking silos, reformulating back offices, optimizing existing services, designing new ones and rethinking the way of delivering services; • The effort made by the government to train around 2300 attendants capable of serving as citizenship mediators and provide, in one single desk and IT system, a wide range of sectorial services in an educational mode; • The criteria used for the Citizen Spots’ implementation, such as demographics and public transports’ availability, which allows citizens to have a greater proximity to public services and reduces costs and time associated with travelling. Also, it should be highlighted that Citizen Spots will open first in areas where public services delivery is lacking the most.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The initiative was implemented and is coordinated by the Administrative Modernization Agency (AMA) of Portugal. AMA follows the responsibilities of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, whose mission is to support the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister and other members of the Government, and to promote inter-ministerial coordination of the various governmental departments in the areas of modernization, administrative simplification and electronic government. The agency is also under the superintendence and tutelage of the Secretary of State Assistant for the Administrative Modernization, and the Ministry of Presidency and Administrative Modernization. AMA’s activity is divided in three major pillars, all interconnected: Public Service Delivery (both physical and digital), Digital Transformation and Administrative Simplification. In addition, it is responsible for the national modernization financing program focused on the efficiency and effectiveness of public administration. This Agency’s work focuses on the improvement of regulatory policy and procedures, the development of best practices on public participation, and the improvement of citizens’ and businesses’ quality of life through digital government and public participation. AMA leads areas such as electronic identification (eID), interoperability, open data, ICT strategy and governance and other building blocks of the digital government in Portugal. As a national public agency, AMA’s work is at a national level as well. The currently existing 432 Citizen Spots are spread nationwide, in order to reach all the Portuguese population - roughly 10 million people. Recently, a Citizen Spot was opened in Paris, France, where a large number of Portuguese immigrants reside. Also, it is expected to open a new Citizen Spot in São Paulo, Brazil, as well as two others in London and Brussels during the present year. As such, we can say that this initiative has the potential to reach at least two more million people.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The strategy of implementation had its starting point with a regulation which provided a legal framework to the Citizen Spots, establishing rules for digital public services delivery, enshrining the assisted provision of digital services as its complement, and defining the responsible entity for its implementation and coordination (AMA). Afterwards, AMA outlined an action plan that comprised two major initiatives:  Working along with numerous public and private entities – Social Security, Tax Authority, Civil Registry, telecom providers, etc., in order to redefine processes and create new or remodel existing digital services;  Establishing contacts with Portuguese municipalities (total of 308), parishes and post offices, with the intent of formalizing partnerships to launch Citizen Spots in their respective regions, in a cost-sharing model. In the first six months of this project (second semester of 2014), a total of 125 protocols were signed nationwide to create and enlarge the network of Citizen Spots. These protocols defined responsibilities for the parties involved. The physical location of the Spots, the required human resources, the marketing strategy and the maintenance costs were to be ensured by the host entity, while the coordinating agency (AMA) would supply the furniture (modular furniture pre-designed to maximize space, functionality and cost while being easily reckoned by citizens as a Citizen Spot), the necessary hardware, software and the training needed to ensure the public servants and private assistants that would work on the Citizen Spots had the know-how to deliver a wide range of very different public and private services in a consistent, educational and homogeneous way. At the beginning, a dedicated Citizen Spot Unit composed of three persons worked on the communication with the different entities, which is nowadays much more agile and simpler, as the project is now well known in the Portuguese society. Also, the Construction, Maintenance and Logistics Unit, as well as the Communication and Marketing unit were involved, in the design of the image/layout of the Citizen Spots, in order to make them appealing to citizens, easy to install in the diverse local facilities, and capitalizing on the expertise of AMA in the delivering of services - both digital (Citizen Portal, Entrepreneur Portal, mobile applications, among other) and physical (such as the international recognised and awarded Citizen Shops). The Training Unit of AMA coordinated and trained around 2300 citizenship mediators. For this, AMA mobilized both internal and external trainers, and further put in place a model through which some civil servants received training to subsequently train others. This net of expertise was, nonetheless, constantly supervised by the AMA’s Training Unit. All of this would sum up to around 20 human resources dedicated to these first two years and a half of the project. Throughout 2015 and 2016, around 300 more Citizen Spots were created, ensuring such capillarity that all national territory is nowadays covered by this digitally assisted service delivery. Currently the growing network of Citizen Spots has 432 desks fully operational. By the end of 2017, it is expected to have a total of 765 Citizen Spots installed throughout the country, hence ensuring coverage of 96% of the Portuguese municipalities, and 100% coverage of Portuguese districts.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
There was a wide range of stakeholders involved, from the very moment of the design of the Citizen Spot solution. The Administrative Modernization Agency as the project coordinator, the 308 Portuguese municipalities that host the Citizen Spots, and the public and private service providers that work together to design the delivery of their services in a digital and interoperable way. These latter include the utilities providers, the Social Security Institute, the Tax Authority, the Civil Registries Institute, the Public Servants Healthcare System, the National Labour Agency, the Institute for Mobility, among other that are involved in the setup of the network. The support of the Minister of Presidency and Administrative Modernisation, and of the Secretary of State Assistant and for the Administrative Modernization, was also fundamental to support the initiative.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Access to services is the first most successful output. 432 Citizen Spots were installed by March 2017 and it is expected to install approximately 335 new Spots until the end of the present year, ensuring a complete coverage of the national territory. This is incremented not only by the number of Citizen Spots available, but also by the growing number of services available at each Spot. At present, a Citizen Spot can deliver up to 200 different services, which include renewing a driver’s license, making healthcare appointments, obtaining criminal records, tax related services, registering intellectual property and changing your address, to name only a few. The increase of digital literacy is another important result, proved by the continuous growth of digital services usage, both in traditional digital platforms and in digitally assisted Citizen Spots. Both effectiveness and efficiency are also major outputs; the first reflected in a higher performance influenced by the reduction of the waiting time for services delivery, and the latter by the maximization of the already available resources and facilities, namely the ones already existing in local administration, hence resulting in a reduction of context costs. In this context, it is worthwhile to mention the investment in infrastructures and bandwidth along the territory, as the network was enlarged. Trust - both in digital services delivery as a whole, and in the government as their provider - is another most important output of the Citizen Spots initiative, for several reasons: the ability of its human resources in providing the services as they are provided in traditional counters, the safety of the operations, ensured by advanced electronic identification tools already available in Portugal and developed by AMA, the transparency in the delivery of these services, since they are performed in a double-screen computer, allowing the citizen to monitor the steps taken to achieve the intended results. This new model of bringing public services closer to the Portuguese population, including enhancing digital literacy and promptness to use electronic tools with the help of a citizenship mediator, allows citizens to benefit from the advantages of digital services regardless of their age, geography, education, etc. All the above mentioned outputs are aligned with the SDGs’ objectives of equality, promotion of inclusive societies for sustainable development, build effective and accountable institutions, bring citizens closer to the government and, more practical, promote infrastructures throughout territories.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Ensuring the necessary infrastructures and bandwidth along the territory was fundamental. So, as new Citizen Spots were born, the necessary investments towards this goal have been made. Also, the services needed to be restructured in order to be integrated in the technological platform that supports the service delivery in the Citizen Spots. This required many entities to be involved, working together redefining processes and, subsequently, improving the procedures and service delivery. Furthermore, the architecture of the Citizen Spots had to be defined in order to ensure uniform modular structures that easily adapt to most physical spaces. This guaranteed both a visual identification of the Citizen Spots throughout the country, while making sure that every town hall, post office, or other given facility, could easily install a Citizen Spot. It should also be mentioned that the late financial crisis imposed serious budget restraints, and only through a solid cooperation and commitment between the Portuguese government and the several stakeholders involved to insure this project’s success. Finally, there was the imperious need to guarantee that public servants and other assistants could perform a wide variety of services, in a homogeneous and educational manner, and with the same efficiency citizens can obtain in any traditional physical service delivery. The Administrative Modernization Agency developed a training program that fulfilled these requirements and is put into place each time a new Citizen Spot is opened.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The first and foremost benefit that resulted from this initiative is the great improvement to public services access, since Citizen Spots provide approximately 200 public and private services nationwide, including land registration, tax services, employment and vocational training, processes related to driving license, address change, request of the European Health Insurance Card or perform e-invoice services, among many other. The Citizen Spots' Contact Centre service is provided by 9 people. Its main goal is to provide information on the services provided at each Citizen Spot, in articulation with the competent entities regarding each service. The second great benefit for the citizens is social inclusiveness, since all citizens despite age, literacy, economic capacity or geographic distribution have equal access to a series of guide-through digital public services, performed by public servants that simultaneously teach citizens to better understand digital interactions with the government - and ultimately perform them on their own. Greater efficiency in delivering public services was also a key benefit, both by reforming public services and back-office processes within public administration – thus reducing context costs, and by having decentralised those services, generating a decrease in waiting times on several physical counters. The chosen training model also promoted the creation of communities of practice within the public services network, allowing professionals to communicate more easily and debate common issues for a better service delivery. The enhance of public trust and transparency is also significant; through the customized pedagogy of the skilled intermediation of the citizenship mediator at the Citizen Spots, citizens can clearly see in concrete and in their screen the steps they have to take to perform electronically the service they need. The last major benefit is the lower cost associated both because citizens don’t need to travel long distances to interact with their service providers, and because the fees for the provision of digital services are significantly lower. In fact, charges are designed to provide extra incentive: Citizen Spots services are free of charge for information and simple transactions, and for every other case charges are always set below those on traditional onsite counters. We consider the Citizen Spots to be a success case, shown by the growth of attendances: from an average of 700 attendances per Citizen Spot in 2014, to over 2000 in 2015! This is even more illustrating if taken into account that attendances in traditional counters, albeit not lower, have been steady since then. It is also worth to mentioning the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index. In terms of Digital Skills, Portugal has shown a growth of roughly 7% between 2014 and 2016 while the Use of Internet has also grown, albeit by half - 3,5% (being the Citizen Spots cited in the referred Index). This is a natural consequence of the Citizen Spot’s promotion of digital literacy, enhanced by the inclusiveness subsequent to a wider access to the internet: since the beginning of this project, there are now 249 new high bandwidth circuits, and 60 new wireless access points.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The dematerialization of services typically promotes the diminishing of corruption since, on one hand, each citizen can perform the service without the involvement of third parties, and on the other hand, procedures are drawn and implemented via an IT system, therefore limiting human intervention Besides, even if there is a “citizenship mediator”, at the Citizen Spot he/she performs each service in total transparency, being accompanied in real time by the citizen, who can see the screen and the service delivery steps and progress, hence reducing the chances for abuse of power and corruption. Also, traceability is fundamental in discouraging potential dishonest acts. Finally, this service delivery monitoring promotes a policy of public participation and transparency, which are at the core of the national public policies in regards to public service delivery.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Citizen Spots, while mitigating the obstacles to digital usage, provide a closer public service delivery to citizens, and as such there is no need for them to miss work or travel great distances to perform the public services. Subsequently, in this perspective, we consider that Citizen Spots lessen the impact that traditional public services delivery – and online services with no assistance – may have on the poorest. As a matter of fact, the social and economic impact on the citizens is one of the factors taken into account to evaluate the Portuguese regulatory and administrative policies.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Administrative Modernization Agency
Institution Type:   Public Authority  
Contact Person:   Cláudia Barroso
Title:   Head of Unit - International Relations  
Telephone/ Fax:   00351217231200
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   claudia.barroso@ama.pt  
Address:   Rua Abranches Ferrão, nr. 10, 3G
Postal Code:   1600-001
City:   Lisboa
State/Province:   Lisboa
Country:  

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