Aveiro had already been on the way towards more digitalisation for quite some time when it received the opportunity to benefit from the experience of Gijon and to transfer its practice of a citizen card: a card simplifying local services, while unifying them under a unique physical support. After having introduced a common card for all students, the municipality also developed new online services and is envisaging to develop even more.
Aveiro is an industrial city with an important seaport on the western coast of Portugal and also known as ‘the Portuguese Venice’. More recently, it has become known as a digital cluster, a territory of innovation with a strong knowledge economy, dynamic university, centre for telecoms R&D, and innovative firms in the digital and traditional sectors. However, the increasing development of new digital solutions had created a complex system of providers, interfaces and information sources for various services around the city, which was increasingly hard for local people to navigate.
The Municipality has been wanting to simplify citizens’ access to public services and transform Aveiro into a smarter, more open, resilient and inclusive society. In 2018, it launched an Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) project ‘Aveiro STEAM CITY’, supporting the adoption of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
Aveiro has started by introducing a common card for all students across its different schools. All services provided by the municipality and schools can be managed and paid with it. This includes the cafeteria, school supplies, photocopying, even access to the buildings and school-day extensions. Crucial preparatory actions included mapping different systems to ensure compatibility and ease of use.
Almost simultaneously, the Municipality also activated new online services, with a wide range of options. Different linkages, payments loading, single sign-in and a number of other key elements discussed in Card4All are already in place.
The integrated approach supported by the ULG has been particularly valuable in helping the work with CARD4ALL fit into Aveiro’s constellation of ongoing projects, creating synergies and building on existing policies.
In addition, the services provided via the card clearly relate to environmentally friendly solutions such as a public transport. It can also potential include social benefits directly into the card.
To reach this point, Aveiro and its stakeholders exchanged regularly with fellow partner CARD4ALL cities, and learned directly about Lead Partner Gijon’s Citizen Card system, including technical tools required for its development. This has already informed key elements of Aveiro’s new online public services and the emerging citizen card plans.
Local developments have been coordinated with an URBACT Local Group (ULG) comprising two different groups of stakeholders. The first engages all existing service providers on a practical, technical level. The second is a municipal cross-departmental group linking with wider economic development activities.
The network and the wider activities enjoy strong support from local politicians – and a clearly identified demand from citizens.
Based on the practice of Gijon, the municipal departments are still working together to create a broader citizen card system covering almost all sectors of local life, including: mobility (bikes, buses, ferry, parking…); education and sports; culture (libraries, museums, theatre…); tourism; IT; and ‘the front office’ that deals directly with citizens. Each department acts as an intermediary with their own external service providers and concession holders, encouraging strong cross-sectoral cooperation. The card’s success in the future will require technical capacity, financial and human resources – including a municipal team of ICT developers and technical experts – which is not always easy to maintain in Portuguese municipalities.
The transfer journey has been demanding but rich. As a direct outcome, despite all ongoing challenges, the city is now working with more public service providers to add the library, museums, bus and bike sharing system to a new citizen card, further simplifying life for residents.