To what extent can ICT boost the competitiveness and modernization of the Portuguese economy?
The IT and ICT sectors are revolutionizing and disrupting every industry. The question is not if ICT will disrupt business, but when and how much it will change some particulars of the market. For example, in the last seven to eight years the media and entertainment sector in Portugal lost 40% of its advertising revenues. Digitization is basically a revolution; if we talk solely about technology-related transformations, we have had the agricultural, industrial, and now digital revolution. The difference is that the digital revolution transforms business and society in a much shorter timeframe than previous revolutions, which took hundreds of years. The first part of the digital revolution was the appearance of computers that could take over support functions for businesses. However, the real revolution started in the last 20 years when businesses were completely transformed due to the exponential growth of several variables brought about since 1958. If we applied this same rate of exponential technology growth to, for example, the automotive industry, a car that could travel at a maximum of 60mph in 1958 would reach Mars in a matter of seconds today. Things that were impossible 20 or 30 years ago are now easy as a result of the computing power to do them.
What impact did opening up APDC's membership to other sectors of the economy beyond media and technology companies have on its membership base and activities?
APDC could not close itself off from other sectors because IT and communications technology is transforming these areas as well. It is extremely important for other players and sectors to talk with us. In addition, most of our members' clients are in other sectors, not just in ICT and media. The response we have had is extremely interesting. At our last congress in 2017, half the delegates and companies were from our sector while the other half were from others. This is a huge transformation for us. Now, we plan to give associate status to companies in other sectors that want to network with our members.
What is the importance and objectives of APDC's annual Digital Business Congress?
This is an annual event with around 2,000 participants, typically high-level decision makers from a range of sectors. It is a crucial event where we discuss and review trends and the scope of the transformation taking place because of IT. We also have an exposition part to the conference where companies have a presence, including IT and ICT start-ups. We have an entrepreneurship chapter within APDC as a channel for communicating with these start-ups. In turn, start-ups use such events to look for investors and to keep up with developments in their field. They also look to APDC as a connection to corporations through specialized events.
Can you tell us more about APDC's initiatives to help people compete in this new digital environment?
Skills are critical for this new environment, especially digital skills, which is why we are cooperating with the Portuguese government on its National Digital Competences Initiative (INCoDe.2030). This is a government program to empower Portugal with more IT knowledge and capacity across the entire population. The challenge for Portugal is not so much on the offer of IT services, since we already have a great network and many IT services; the problem is that usage is still low. Only around 60% of Portuguese people use the internet daily, and 26% do not use the internet at all. This 26% either lack the necessary IT skills or money to buy basic IT equipment. In the case of skills, we have to rectify this limitation to ensure we not only have enough trained personnel in the country for IT-related jobs, but also for the population at large. I am currently the Chairman of the Forum for INCoDe.2030. Our mission is to create instruments for evaluation and give visibility to this initiative on an annual basis. We held the first conference in 2017 when it was launched to publicize the program and explain its aims. Each year the forum analyzes what INCoDe.2030 has achieved that year. The program also has an Executive Coordinator appointed by the Minister of Science. Regarding APDC's Digital Academy, our associates needed a mechanism to train their own people, and in 2017 we prepared the courses and are now starting to sell them. These include short crash courses for executives who want to understand concepts like artificial intelligence. The other courses are for training company personnel. These programs are more structured and last around 600 hours.