DIGITALIZING PORTUGAL’S ECONOMY

Portugal 2019 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to, Rogério Carapuça, President of Portuguese Association for the Development of Communications (APDC), on Portugal's growing IT sector, competition in the new digital environment, and the National Digital Competences Initiative.

To what extent can ICT boost the competitiveness and modernization of the Portuguese economy?

The IT and ICT sectors are revolutionizing and disrupting all industries. 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 revenue. Digitization is basically a revolution; if we talk solely about technology-related transformations, we had the agricultural, the industrial, and now the 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 that have been maintained from 1958 to date. 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. Feats that were impossible 20 or 30 years ago are now easy as a result of the available computing power.

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 are 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 other sectors. 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 that is 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 corporate 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, and for this reason we cooperate with the Portuguese government on INCoDe.2030, the National Digital Competences Initiative. This is a government program to empower Portugal with more IT knowledge and capacity across the entire population. The challenge for Portugal is not about what IT services are on offer, because the country has a great network with several IT services; the problem is that usage is still low. Only around 60% of Portuguese people use internet on a daily basis, while 26% do not use internet at all. This 26% either lack the necessary IT skills or the money to buy basic IT equipment. In the case of skills, we have to remove this limitation not only to 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 INCoDe.2030's recent achievements. 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 which we are now starting to sell. These include short crash courses for executives who want to understand concepts like artificial intelligence. The other courses are for training company personnel.

What are your expectations for Portugal and its IT sector?

Our top priority at APDC is to address the digital transformation and understand how it will change the business environment in the next few years. Every year, we do a study of examples in digital transformation. Our aim for the next two or three years is to bring companies from other sectors into this discussion and help our associate companies during these important transformations. APDC's aim is to develop the market; we are not focused on representing members to government or other stakeholders. We help our associates transform and grow the size of our sector. To do this, we have to understand the ongoing transformations and then work on explaining how these transformations will have a profound effect on all sectors.