Digital with Purpose leads sustainability compliance arm of the Portuguese Government’s digital certification initiative

28 January 2021

This article originally appeared on Expresso by Hugo Seneca.

The new certifying stamps will be released gradually during 2021. CNPD, AMA, GESI and CNCS are the entities chosen to participate in the certifications.

The Secretariat of State for the Economy and Digital Transition is working on the launch of four certifications for companies wishing to ensure compliance with best practices in terms of sustainability, cybersecurity, privacy and accessibility of digital services and tools. Certifications are expected to be rolled out gradually over 2021.

The initiative is being prepared with the support of the National Press Casa da Moeda, Portuguese Institute of Accreditation (IPAC) and Portuguese Quality Institute. On the table is the launch of stamps that certify the best practices in all four areas of activity.

Each of the areas will have an entity that issues the certification or that, at least, provides the frame of reference that must be followed in order for the certification to be awarded. The Secretariat of State is currently working with the Agency for Administrative Modernization with the aim of developing certification regarding usability practices, which ensure easy access to information for all consumers, and accessibility which ensure that digital activities they do not leave out workers or consumers with motor limitations.

In the area of cybersecurity, the National Cybersecurity Center (CNCS) was the certifying entity chosen. In turn, for the privacy area, the certification is expected to have as a reference the framework of good practices that may be proposed by the National Data Protection Commission (CNPD).

Only in the area of sustainability will the new certifications have as their main reference an entity external to the State. GESI, a non-profit entity that has giants such as Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, IBM and also the Portuguese company NOS, is the reference entity.

André de Aragão Azevedo, Secretary of State for Digital Transition, justifies the launch of the new certifications as a reinforcement of credibility and competitiveness. “These certifications are also a way to raise the bar in the digital maturity of companies”, explains the State Secretary.

The stamps are intended to certify the best practices with regard to the activities carried out in digital support, but they are not limited to companies whose mission is to market services or digital products.

Aragão Azevedo admits that certifications can act as a differentiating element in relations between companies when looking for service providers and suppliers, but points out that they can also become, in the future, a factor to be taken into account during public tenders carried out by the State. What, if this hypothesis is confirmed, could make the certifying seals as an element of tie breaking or appreciation of proposals analyzed during State purchases.

“The objective is that certification costs are not a barrier and that these certifications are self-sustainable. For the State, there is an interest in increasing the competitiveness, confidence and internationalization of companies”, explains the State Secretary.

In addition to the support of the Movie Director Ridley Scott, GESI managed to attract the attention of the Portuguese government during a presentation of a project around sustainability at the European Commission. Luís Neves, Executive Director of GESI, recalls that sustainability is not limited to promoting practices that reduce pollutant gas emissions, prevent the sale of products resulting from the use of child labour, or guarantee the protection of personal data, as yet produces a generating effect of financial returns.

The Portuguese government may have been the pioneer in contacts with GESI, but Luís Neves is committed to taking the issue to other Member States and to European bodies. “Europe is a space between two international blocs, the USA and China, and it has advantages in positioning itself around sustainability”, he says.

The head of GESI recalls a study commissioned by GeSI to Deloitte that was based on the contributions of 150 experts on the effects of sustainability on the main environmental threats. The report had as its starting point the 17 Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations and 169 associated indicators. According to the GeSI and Deloitte report, the best sustainability practices produce positive effects on 103 of these indicators. With regard to progress, the use of technologies could accelerate sustainability indicators by 22%. To this factor are added the three billion dollars (2.48 billion euros) that should be invested in research and development activities in the technology and telecommunications sector until 2030.

Luís Neves also recalls the prospects of reducing a fifth of polluting emissions through the use of technologies. The Portuguese executive argues that good sustainability practices can act as a benchmark that raises the bar for services provided by companies and state entities. “If we do not stop the asymmetries that still exist, we will be heading towards the abyss. There must be responsibility for all actors, “he argues, leaving a final suggestion for policy makers:” I have to recognize that a new framework is needed. Political power may have to create new instruments to be able to act in this area”, he concludes.

Read the original article in Portuguese here.