The Digital Wave in Portugal
Portugal has an old History of global connection that started in the Fifteenth Century, when Portuguese sailors started to explore the open sea, using cartography and technology for navigation. Thus, trade ports were set in North Africa before navigators engaged in opening a path that reached India by a maritime route allowing Portugal to control the trade of spices from India to Europe. Portuguese trade then expanded from Arabia reaching Japan, Africa, and Latin America contributing to the tremendous growth of the local economy.
Today, Portugal is remaining faithful to its tradition of global connection by riding the digital wave. Indeed, the digital transition in the country is contributing to the creation of jobs, the internationalization of local companies, as well as the modernization of the State. In fact, the digital transformation of Portugal is defined by the following two pillars: Business Digital transformation, Public service digital transformation. However, for this growth to benefit all layers of the Portuguese society, a digital inclusion plan is guiding the digital journey, in order to ensure equal opportunities in access to new technologies.
To do so, the government is today focusing on digital education, professional training and reskilling programs. Therefore the Foundation of Science and Technology run by the Ministry of Education aims at narrowing the digital divide through education, training in digital skills, and promotion of digital literacy and particularly the enablement of the population vis a vis AI by increasing the AI Educational levels, upgrading the labour force qualifications, and encouraging the specialization in AI fields. In this regard, the education infrastructure is seeking to include training in AI for earlier educational levels as much as for higher ones like Bachelors, Masters, Post-Graduates and PhDs, fostering specialization in computer, Data Science to create a higher qualified labour force in AI-related areas.
Several actions aim to nurture talent and skills in AI such as teaching young students fundamentals of Machine Learning in the Ciencia Viva Club. That’s how, in 2019, as part of the program Ciencia Viva Laboratory Criar Futuro, 270 High Schools students have participated in two weeks of summer schools aimed at gaining literacy on AI applications and societal impacts, Data Science and Machine Learning. On top of this, as part of the Conferencia Professores Espaciais, the European Space Education Resource Office and Ciencia Viva promoted a lecture on Data Science and AI and a workshop on AI application in space education. A hundred teachers participated in the lecture and sixty teachers participated in the workshop.
In 2020, the Director-General for education and the Seguro Net Awareness Center have launched a specialization in AI in Education. The first session counted about 2000 participants. Moreover, in the last two years, public higher education institutions have launched several executive programs, advanced courses, and summer and winter schools on AI-related topics (Big Data, Business Analytics, Computer Vision, Machine Learning). In addition to this, actions are undertaken, with the aim to reskill and upskill citizens through learning opportunities. The polytechnics institutes located in different Portuguese regions are offering short courses under the upskills programme.
Another initiative that was led is the construction of an e-learning platform, with courses on other specific subjects. Also, a cooperation with the National Institute for Administration has put in place a training programme aimed at the Digital Transition in Public Administration to empower workers with skills in the emerging Digital technologies essential to Public Service ( AI, Big Data and Innovation in Digital Environment). Lastly, the government heavily supported HPC Competence centres, National Centers that offer education and training opportunities on HPC and related educational computing tools.
This is the way Portugal is honouring its legacy of connecting dots, with however tremendous efforts in making the output well redistributed among Portugal’s society.