GovTech: Using technology to support the Sustainable Development Goals in Portugal

GovTech is a Portuguese public competition that rewards innovative products and services provided by Startups and addressing at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It intends to stimulate the national Startup ecosystem, by promoting a sustainable economic growth, fostering innovation and opening new economic opportunities based on the 2030 Agenda.

The use of blockchain in the voting phase opened to the public was one of the perks of this competition

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

GovTech is a public competition that rewards innovative products and services of Startups addressing at least one of the 17 SDGs. In the 1st edition there were projects focused on the environment, women’s rights, the youth, migrants, fighting poverty, etc.

In fact, the way GovTech was designed had two main goals in mind: to promote the SGDs nationwide, and to stimulate the Startup ecosystem and dynamism in Portugal. Startups usually employ young people and have a reputation of being disruptive, creative, innovative and have a great growth potential, making everything seem possible. So enabling their development and teaching them about the importance of the SDGs, promotes a sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth.

2018 was the year of the Govtech first edition, with the all process being divided in four main phases:

• The 1st phase was to submit the applications. The candidates had to present a video, the technical specifications of a working prototype and the business case for the project, which had to include sound production and sale costs, revenue models, among other things.
• The 2nd phase was to check if the projects were in compliance with the illegibility criteria, namely its convergence with the SDGs.
• On the 3rd phase, everyone could analyse the projects accepted to the competition and then vote and choose the six finalist projects. All the information was made public on the GovTech webpage. To make the vote, or better, the investment on the projects a more interesting process, a virtual coin using blockchain technology was created, named GovTechs. People could vote on their preferred projects, by investing the GovTechs on the website. This insured the security and transparency of the all participatory process.
• The 4th, and final phase, was the ceremony that gathered hundreds of participants, on which the final six projects that made it to the final, could pitch their idea to a specialized jury, who had the responsibility of choosing the three winning projects.

To participate, either just to submit the prototypes, or just to vote / invest in the ideas, the participants only needed to create an account in the GovTech website, using the Citizen Card, or the Digital Mobile Key (DMK), which is the Portuguese mobile electronic identification and authentication instrument that allows citizens to electronically identify themselves in websites and perform public, and private, digital services, through their smartphones, tablets or laptops.

The 3rd phase of the public voting was designed to be like a game. The process was actually very simple, after creating an account on the website, the citizens automatically had a virtual wallet that they could manage, and were able to receive badges for doing determined actions. Each badge had a certain amount of GovTechs associated. For instance, when a citizen created an account in the website he received a badge with 100 GovTechs; if the login was made using the DMK, instead of the Citizens Card, he received an extra badge of 200 GovTechs; if he participated in the road show he had another badge with 100 GovTechs; if he invited a friend to participate, he was entitled to a badge of more 100 Govtechs:, 2 friends gave him 200 GovTechs, and so on. The investors could later use these virtual coins to vote / invest in the projects, or pass them to another investor of their choosing.

In the first edition, 113 prototypes were approved and 1744 people registered on the GovTech website. The winning projects were: INFORMAT – Intelligent Forest Management Technologies; Green Salt and Healthy Life for All, which intends to use Salicornia to reduce salt consumption; and Bio2Skin, a medical adhesive-related skin injuries.

The winners won a 30 000EUR award; the opportunity to showcase their solution in the Lisbon WebSummit; internationalization support; and the possibility to work with other private and public entities, testing and implementing their product, namely in developing countries, thus revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development.

The initiative was coordinated by the Administrative Modernization Agency (AMA), which is the public institute responsible for promoting administrative modernization in Portugal, under the Secretary of State Assistant for Administrative Modernization (SSAAM). Also, Camões Institute played a central role, as the public institute from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that coordinates the international cooperation and monitors the 2030 Agenda in Portugal.

With these two public entities, both innovation and SDGs were in focus, but a third component was lacking: the private sector and reaching small and medium enterprises (SME), which was operationalized through partnership with private companies, such as Startups incubators.

The second edition was already launched by the SSAAM in March 2019, and it’s now in the first phase of the competition.

Innovation Description

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Year: 2018
Level of government: National/Federal government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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