Portugal is home to one of Europe's most promising technology ecosystems. Lisbon hosts Web Summit, one of the largest and fastest-growing tech conferences in the world, and Portugal's startup community has seen staggering growth over the past few years. Government programs like Startup Portugal, a national strategy that promotes local startups internationally, have helped foster a culture of entrepreneurstghip – in 2016, Portugal took in $18.5M in venture capital, six times more than the previous year. Portugal's government has also welcomed new businesses to the country, offering reduced tax rates to startups and creating a Startup Visa for foreign entrepreneurs, bringing even more innovation into the country.
This unique and focused approach to supporting a strong culture where technology not only thrives – but works to solve some of the country's challenges – makes Portugal a natural partner for Cisco. Yesterday, I had the honor to meet with Prime Minister António Costa to discuss a new partnership to support the country's national digital agenda. I am thrilled that, through our Country Digital Acceleration program, Cisco and Portugal will work closely together to advance the country's digital priorities.
We are excited to collaborate with Startup Portugal in important areas such as security, mobility, and the Internet of Things to further strengthen the country's ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship. Additionally, the program will evaluate support for other start-up programs and provide local start-ups with access to our European Venture Capital initiative and incubation program to help early-stage businesses grow and expand internationally.
Our work with Portugal will also focus on ensuring that all citizens have the skills needed to take advantage of all the opportunities Portugal's growing digital economy has to offer. We are committing to more than double the annual number of students in our Networking Academies, from approximately 3,000 today to 7,000 by 2020. Likewise, we are partnering with Portugal's Ministry of Education to evaluate the use of Networking Academy content in secondary schools and architect smart campuses that will optimize study environments and increase digital access for all. The program also provides opportunities for workers over the age of 45 to learn critical skills for the digital era.
Portugal is also one of the highest-trending tourist destinations in the world. Through our collaboration with Turismo de Portugal, we will help the agency take greater advantage of Wi-Fi with analytics, and use EU programs such as WiFi4EU to improve public wireless services – making public spaces easier and more enjoyable to navigate.
Lastly, we will partner with several government ministries to create more connected public services, with a focus on public administration modernization, health, justice, and defense. These improvements to the country's public digital infrastructure will play an important role in not only increasing the quality of life for citizens, but also in helping the government lower costs, improve productivity, and increase revenue. Perhaps most importantly, all these services will be backed by Cisco's cybersecurity initiatives to keep the country's citizens, travelers, and residents safe. This includes a collaboration with government offices like Gabinete Nacional de Segurança to ensure the country's privacy and help design a streamlined national infrastructure that will drive innovation, automation, and security across the government.
Portugal's digital transformation in recent years has been nothing short of incredible, and Cisco is deeply honored to play a role in helping the country accelerate its digital economy to positively impact GDP, education, and innovation. Portugal has an already rich history, and I believe that with our collective focus on digitization, it will become an even more dynamic and exciting place to live, work and visit. I look forward to seeing this great partnership come to life.
The article first appeared on Cisco blogs with the title “Accelerating Portugal's Digital Transformation.”