Getting back in touch: Portugal undergoes citizen services revolution

Four times a year a publication drops onto my desk full of fascinating stories of how Microsoft public sector customers have solved their challenges using technology and working with Microsoft partners. TOUCH magazine is a great read for those interested in government innovation, and the content helps answer the question “how did they do that?” And, the summer edition is no exception for those in government looking to take leaps forward in delivering quality services to citizens. Let me summarize the cover story for you.

Matosinhos, a municipality on the northern coast of Portugal with a population of 170,000, has revolutionised the way it serves its citizens. Just a few years ago, service points were spread out across regions and different buildings, people were passed from one place to another, information was dispersed and processes were manual and paper-heavy – an all too familiar experience for some of us in government. It wasn’t uncommon for citizens to make multiple trips to City Hall and see many officials and wait months just to get a simple building permit. Things really needed to change, and they dramatically did, through the use of technology.

Matosinhos developed a clear, ambitious vision to develop a new way of serving its citizens and simplifying the interaction with the regional government, and began work with Microsoft and Unisys to make it a reality. The project, named SIMPLIFE, has had spectacular results. Front- and back-office systems are now integrated, citizens can access the information and services they need online and communicate with officials by email, SMS and fax without travelling to City Hall and being bounced around between departments. This transformation has improved the quality of life for citizens in Matosinhos, reducing errors, accelerating response and helping employees to work more efficiently with access to up-to-date information. The SIMPLIFE project has redefined the way government services are offered and delivered to citizens in Matosinhos, so much so that other areas in Portugal are considering similar initiatives. The whole story can be read in more depth in the summer edition of our public sector magazine TOUCH. Enjoy!

And while you are there, take a look at how Copeland Borough Council in the UK virtualised its server infrastructure to become more efficient and improve its e-government services to residents, and how Unified Communications is cutting the costs of connecting communities, public sector workers and organisations.

Posted by Paul Hart - EMEA Public Sector Marketing Director

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