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Mayor of Águeda, Mr. Jorge Almeida: The Municipality of Águeda has the largest information technology project for classroom education in Portugal

Águeda is a lively, active, dynamic city where you can be surprised at every moment. A city that has so much to offer!

  • August 29, 2018 13:00
  • Author Olya Georgieva
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Source: Municipality of Águeda

This is your first term, but even though, you won with an absolute majority. How did you win people's trust?

Although this is, indeed, my first term as mayor, people know me very well! I already have a lot of experience as an executive member. I was Vice-President of this municipality and President of Macinhata do Vouga parish. I believe that this was an added value for the obtained result in the municipal elections last October.

In your inaugural speech as mayor of Águeda, you promised that Águeda will become a tourist and cultural spot. What visitors can expect from your city?

A lively, active, dynamic city where you can be surprised at every moment. A city that has so much to offer. During the month of July, it will be unavoidable the AgitÁgueda and all the excitement that this Festival brings, but also that unique color that our umbrellas give to the streets of the city and what the world known us for. This will continue to be, as you might guess, a bet of this governing. However, throughout the year, we will continue to focus on a quality artistic proposals, placed in Águeda Arts Center, which is one of the most beautiful and versatile halls in the country, as well in our cultural incubator, which with its artistic residences, develops culturally high quality output, to which we associate the vast range of sports, gastronomic and recreational events. Therefore, Águeda is already beginning to be seen today as a reference in urban art.

In the beginning of this year, the Municipality of Águeda launched the Young Unemployment Initiative which involves municipalities of several countries of the European Union. The program aims to promote the access of young people to the business and facilitate the implementation of new businesses, thereby promoting employment and economic development. Tell us more about the program and the results achieved so far?

The Youth Unemployment Initiative, launched by the Municipality, focuses on the need to attract young people to the industrial functions in order to maintain the economic development of the municipality.

The municipality of Águeda is one of the most industrialized municipalities in the central region of Portugal. The strong economic dynamics that are felt and the need to face the new challenges resulting from modernization and technological innovation make it necessary to hire young skilled workers in the industry.

However, young people today have a view of Águeda's industry that is not attractive, socially disqualified and often associated with a low level of remuneration, which means that they are not interested in developing their careers in this sector, in detriment of the service and technological companies. This situation results, in part, from the fact that they have outdated ideas about these, since today many of the county's companies have a strong technological component and are facing the future avoiding the logic of the past.

It is therefore essential to implement new solutions to demystify this idea of ​​the business sector of the county, and to bring young people closer to the business fabric. This initiative aims not only to bring young people closer to the business community, but also to facilitate the implementation of new businesses, thereby promoting employment and economic development.

In this way, this challenge was launched through the Social Challenges platform, with the aim of making thinkers from around the world study this problem and present solutions that could be implemented by the Águeda municipality, in order to have a new vision and approach to the problem.

The municipality received four solutions to this challenge and voted on them according to the voting criteria established by the platform. Some of the criteria were the applicability of the solution and whether it met the problem and the creativity, impact and sustainability of the solution.

After the vote of the municipality, the vote of the jury made the final decision. The winning solution was JOBIRI, a digital platform that presents itself as the first platform based on AI (Artificial Intelligence) career consulting. This platform will provide customized tips and tools to help job seekers get a job faster through AI algorithms and an integrated ecosystem of career services. This platform will support schools, universities and public institutions to accelerate job matching in local communities.

At the moment, the autarchy is starting to work with the winning solution for the implementation of this platform in Águeda, and the forecast is the same to be launched in early 2019.

Five schools in the municipality of Águeda have been awarded Eco-Schools. This European program aims to encourage and recognize good environmental management practices in the school environment, as well as the awareness and involvement of the whole community. What is the importance of educating these values ​​to the moral formation of the community?

Águeda has been working to raise public awareness of the need to preserve nature and existing natural resources. This approach is not merely conservationist, but it is a holistic view that aims to sustain our way and quality of life. It is increasingly evident that global well-being must be the solid foundation of a balanced society, which involves local development and citizen participation in this development, with particular emphasis on the involvement of young people. Nonetheless, and through the various programs of education and environmental awareness and sustainable development promoted by the local council, which go beyond the eco-schools program, we strive for more and more citizens and entities to be part of the solution, integrating in the their daily actions good practices that contribute to the preservation and environmental valuation. In Águeda these actions are even awarded! Each citizen, as an active part of the community, contributes and thus enjoys the benefits of a balanced, sustainable and comprehensive local development with global impact.

You focus a lot on the social issues. Águeda was one of 78 municipalities that participated in the cancer walk at the end of May. Tell us more about the projects and initiatives that the municipality of Águeda has managed to implement so far in the social sphere?

Águeda has been participating in the Cancer Walk / Race organized by the Community Volunteer Group of Águeda of the League Against Cancer, this being the 5th edition, in a partnership with the Municipal Center of March and Race of Águeda and that counted with more of a thousand registered and more than five thousand Euros raised.

This walk has been a success in Águeda since 2014, when the project of the Municipal Center of March and Race gained preponderance. In addition to encouraging regular physical activity and awareness of better nutrition, this project has been promoting positive social interaction.

Also in the social sphere, it is important to highlight the program "Senior Evenings", an action of the Municipality of Águeda that intends to promote, once a month, during four months not continuous, a conviviality among the elderly of the municipality of Águeda so that they can realize various projects of social and cultural animation, in collaboration with the Institutions of Social Solidarity of the Municipality.

It is also worth mentioning the project "Senior Age", focudes on the institutionalized senior population of the municipality, and which intends to invite and bring to the Municipal Library Manuel Alegre (BMMA) elderly people of the institutions that have valences destined to them (Social Centers, Day Centers and Households). "Senior Age" consists of the dynamization of sessions in the form of "Gathering with linden tea", public readings, storytelling and exchange of experiences capable of stimulating the imagination, memory, experiences and hopes of the elderly.

However, these are just a few of the examples of the extensive work we have done. From the issue of social housing through the lease subsidy program that the municipality develops and which has been a success over the last few years, helping many families, to the projects of psychological support or speech therapy to the students of our schools, while speaking in question as therapeutic riding, our intervention has been very wide and diverse.

We have an extensive network of IPSS (Private Institution of Social Solidarity) in the field, which we also support through a specific program that supports them in the development of their competencies and attributions, thus building a more solid network in the territory that is embodied in the UCIPSS itself.

Today, we are concerned with equality and the right of opportunity, we belong to the network of cities that welcomes refugees and we are alert to the rights of children and young people and the elderly, developing projects such as the Child Friendly City or the Commission for the Protection of the Elderly, with proximity support networks.

Please share with us some other interesting projects or good practices of your municipality. How do you intend to fund them?

Well, the list of good initiatives in Águeda is very extensive and I cannot in any way speak of them all. For example, starting with education, we have the largest information technology project for classroom education in Portugal. The idea is to change working models and have in each classroom a window to the world. All students and teachers work in a dematerialized way with tablets and computers and what is wanted is to change teaching and learning methods. On the other hand, another example is the Águeda Living Lab (ALL) which is a laboratory for innovation and creative development, a maker space that aims to offer the community a space to create equipment and technology, as well as technical support. ALL promotes experimentation workshops, especially focused on the younger ones, where they can explore topics such as Robotics, 3D Modeling and Printing, and, occasionally, other initiatives such as workshops exploring topics such as: Photogrammetry, 3D modeling with Blender, Introduction to Arduino and Introduction to Raspberry Pi. To support the realization of projects and workshops, ALL has Rapid Prototyping and Digital Fabrication equipment open to the community such as: Laser Cutting Machine, 3D Printers, Vinyl Cutting Machine and Precision CNC Milling Machine.

Still in the technological area, I can also highlight the various applications that we have developed over the time, but in particular for Agueda CityFy. In our days more than 30% of internet access is made through mobile platforms (smartphones, tablets, etc.). Worldwide this trend is increasing and all indicators point to its continuity. This is due to the increasing availability of mobile devices with better quality and computational power, coupled with these factors also highlight the improvement that mobile networks have been targeting in recent years (3G, 4G). However, most of these accesses are still performed intermittently through Wi-Fi hotspots or short accesses in the short intervals between tasks. For all these reasons, it is very important to provide access to information through an application model, which can include online and offline functionalities, as well as notifications that make proactive use. In order to respond to future trends, ensure that the information reaches all citizens, the Municipality of Águeda has chosen to launch the City-Fy which is an aggregator of the various APPs of the municipality and where simultaneously the user has access to messages, news, events, points of interest among others.

On the other hand, as the communication is fundamental nowadays, and in addition to the extensive network of Wi-Fi that the municipality presents, the local council has also implemented a local television station, Agueda.Tv. Thus, betting on the New Technologies of Information and with the Purpose - "Promotion of the Municipality" Águeda City Council launched in June 2009 a new municipal information service ÁguedaTV. Águeda.tv is a corporate channel that arose from the need to promote what is best done in Águeda in terms of Culture, Education, Sports, Economic Development, Social Action, Environment, Municipal Works, Tourism, and Local Development. The Agueda.Tv has the motto: "We report facts ... We remember events ..." It regularly performs video reports of events promoted by the municipality as well as events of local interest. Águeda.TV is a strong vehicle of municipal transparency, highlighting the live broadcasts of Municipal Assemblies, so that all people can follow the decisions taken by the municipality. In this way, the Municipality of Águeda places itself at the forefront of digital municipalities, offering the population and all internet users a television channel, through the Internet.

In addition to these, we are recognized as one of the leading municipalities with regard to issues of environmental and energy sustainability in Portugal. Among others, some projects related to sustainable mobility are considered as good practice, namely Águeda's electric bicycle, beÁgueda, energy efficiency actions linked to the Production Units for AutoConsumo - UPAC, smart meters and the fleet of electric vehicles. As regards to environmental and air quality, the network of installed environmental sensors also has a high potential to be a good practice at regional level. The extension of some of these actions / measures could be financed by funds such as POSEUR and the Environmental Fund, or even programs such as LIFE. Also note the live laboratories for the decarbonization, with the actions that it closes.

The bets are many and diverse and we cannot forget the leading role of the municipality of Águeda in the administrative modernization and services to the citizen and the fact that we are recognized as a SMART CITY, which brings us a greater responsibility in all that we do for our citizens.

What do you think about a unified platform for European municipalities and its main goal to make and keep European citizens better informed about what is taking place in the European Union?  How can this platform be useful for your projects?

Yes, I think it can be very useful, and it fully connects to the strategy of the municipality I lead. Today we cannot live as if we are isolated islands and the integration of products, services and regions is mandatory. The Intermunicipal Community where Águeda is invloved is already developing a unique integration platform in some of the 11 municipalities that comprise it, something similar to what you propose at European level, so we are already at the forefront. I think that a common platform will always have advantages for Águeda, given the quality of life we ​​offer and the type of job offer we have, we will always have significant advantages in the shared diffusion of information.