The terms digital literacy and digital skills are mainly used in government documents. According to the INCoDe.2030 programme, the concept of Digital Skills encompasses digital literacy, the production of new knowledge through research activities, the use of digital technologies to design new solutions to various problems, and the integration of interdisciplinary knowledge and data analysis. Digital literacy is the ability to independently access digital media and ICT, comprehend and evaluate the content, and communicate effectively and critically.
According to the Dynamic Frame of Reference of Digital Competence for Portugal, Digital Competence is understood to be the set of knowledge, abilities, skills, strategies and attitudes needed to use digital technologies and media.
Constitution and laws: The Constitution of Portugal states that scientific research and technological innovation are encouraged and supported by the State (art. 73). According to the 1986 Basic Law of the Education System (Law No. 46/86), the first and second cycles of education shall emphasize the progressive mastery of scientific and technological education. In 2021, Law No 27/2021 Portuguese Charter of Human Rights in the Digital Age, established the State's responsibility to create a digital environment that supports and defends human rights, as well as the right of everyone to education to acquire and develop digital skills.
Further legislation related to ICT includes the Electronic Communications Law (Law 16/2022), which amends past legislation such as Law No 41/2004, on the Processing of Personal Data and Protection of Privacy in the Electronic Communications Sector, Law 99/2009, which approved the framework of the communications sector, and Decree-Laws No 151-A/2000, and 24/2014, and repealing Law No 5/2004, and Administrative Rule No 791/98.
Policies, plans and strategies: At the regional level, the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027 is a European Union (EU) policy initiative that sets out a common vision of high-quality, inclusive and accessible digital education in Europe. It aims to support the adaptation of the education and training systems of Member States to the digital age.
The Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 30/2020 approves the Action Plan for the Digital Transition as the new institutional framework in the field of digital transformation of the country. The plan is based on a three-pillar structure – People, Companies and Public Administration. In the context of pillar I of the Action Plan for the Digital Transition, dedicated to training and digital inclusion of people, three sub-pillars are foreseen: I.1 — Digital education, I.2 — Professional training and requalification and I.3 — Inclusion and digital literacy.
The Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 26/2018 of 2018 approved the National Digital Competences Initiative e.2030 - Portugal INCoDe.2030. In May 2021, Portugal revised its National Digital Skills Initiative (INCoDe.2030), through the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 59/2021, of May 14, aligning its goals and lines of action with the Action Plan for 2025-2030. Portugal INCoDe.2030 is an integrated public policy program that aims to strengthen the digital skills of Portuguese citizens. This initiative is comprised of five axes: inclusion, education, qualification, specialization and research. In education, measures include integrating digital skills and resources into teaching, developing digital resources, extending the information and communications technology (ICT) curriculum and designing an ICT reference framework for younger students.
In 2020 the Resolution of the Council of Ministers n.o 98/2020 approved Portugal Strategy 2030 (Estrategia Portugal 2030), which includes in its thematic axis digitalization, innovation and qualifications as drivers of development. It includes a pillar on training and digital inclusion of people which incorporates a sub-pillar on digital education, professional training, requalification, and digital literacy. Moreover, it mentions the transversal integration of technologies in the different curricular areas of basic and secondary education.
Digital competency frameworks: The National Digital Competences Initiative 2030 (INCoDe.2030), aims to define performance descriptive parameters by educational level (1st, 2nd and 3rd cycles of primary education and secondary education), based on the Dynamic Reference Framework of Digital Competence. The Dynamic Reference Framework of Digital Competence for Portugal is based on DigComp 2.1 and is presented as a Reference Framework with three main scopes: to support the definition of policies and strategies, allowing mapping of digital competencies articulated with other references; design education programs, namely for curriculum revision, development of training programs and employability skills; and assess and certify competences, either by self-diagnosis or by certifying bodies. The Dynamic Frame of Reference of Digital Competence for Portugal includes five dimensions with its respective competencies according to levels.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portuguese Council of Ministers approved the Action Plan for Digital Transition, which is intended to be “the country’s transformation engine”, aiming to put into practice a varied set of measures to promote the country’s digitalization. These measures are organized into three main pillars, the first of which is dedicated to training and digital inclusion and includes education and digital requalification and vocational training. Also, in 2021 Portugal the National Digital Skills Initiative (INCoDe.2030) was developed through the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 59/2021.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
The Directive 2002/22/ED of the European Parliament and the Council on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service Directive) aims to ensure universal services for all state members.
Electricity: Law Decree 740/74, which authorises the Safety Regulations for Installations for the Use of Electric Energy and for Collective Installations in Buildings and Entrances, classifies educational institutions as establishments eligible for public funding. There is a 'social tariff' for the supply of electricity in Portugal, which guarantees a bill discount.
Computers and devices: The 1986 Basic Law of the Education System – Law No. 46/86 mandates the State’s responsibility to provide and ensure material resources to school networks; however, no mention of technology or ICT materials or resources is mentioned. In 2021, the Portuguese Charter of Human Rights in the Digital Age (Law No 27/2021) mentioned the State's responsibility to implement programmes that ensure access to technological and digital resources to improve digital skills and access to electronic platforms, particularly for the most vulnerable citizens.
The National Digital Competences Initiative 2030 includes the "Digital School" Programme, which aims to ensure the universal distribution of computers with mobile connectivity to students and teachers and digital resources, such as manuals, pedagogical resources, and collaborative platforms. The Action Plan for the Digital Transition recommends the provision of individual equipment to students and teachers.
In Portugal, in 2008, the XVII Portuguese Constitutional Government announced the 'e.escolinha' programme, as part of the Technological Plan for Education, which mandated the distribution of a computer called 'Magalhes' to children enrolled in the first cycle of primary education. The XVIII Government discontinued the program in 2011.
Internet connectivity: The Electronic Communications Law, (as amended in 2022) defines and calls for universal services as a minimum set of services that must be available to all consumers within the national territory, at an affordable price, in the light of specific national conditions. The 2021 Law No 27/2021 Portuguese Charter of Human Rights in the Digital Age outlines the State's responsibility to reduce and eliminate regional and local connection disparities, ensure connectivity in low-density areas, and ensure quality, broadband, and affordable connectivity throughout the national territory. The law establishes a social tariff for Internet access for economically disadvantaged clients. The Decree-Law No 66/2021 creates the social tariff for the provision of broadband, fixed or mobile broadband Internet access services, to be applied to consumers with low income or special social needs.
At the policy level, Portugal Digital (2020) includes a measure to establish a social tariff for Internet access. This measure aligns with the training initiatives in axis 1 of the INCoDe.2030 Programme, which promotes digital literacy and the use of basic digital services that require connectivity assurance, namely: consultation and use of digital public services, home banking access, and email account management. The Action Plan for Digital Transition guarantees free mobile connectivity for students and teachers and access to high-quality digital educational resources.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The provision of flexible and distance learning is included in different government documents. The Basic Law of the Education System (Law No. 46/86) acknowledges distance education as an alternative modality of school education. According to article 21, distance learning through the use of multimedia and new information technologies is not only a complementary form of regular education, but can also constitute an alternative modality of school education. The Decree-Law No 55/2018 establishes the curriculum of primary and secondary education and the guiding principles of the evaluation of learning include distance learning within the education modalities of the education system, such as distance learning.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, Portugal announced the closure of all educational institutions and transitioned to distance learning. The Portuguese Ministry of Education provided some support to this transition by creating a website to make materials available and by publishing guidelines under the title “Guiding principles for the implementation of Distance Education at Schools” for the implementation of distance education at public schools. In the second phase, the government and the public television network broadcast educational content on television in the form of a television programme called "Study at Home."
In Portugal, the Decree-Law No 55/2018 establishes the curriculum for primary and secondary education levels, and includes as an underlying concept of the curriculum (k), the promotion of learning within the discipline of Information and Communication Technologies. The Profile of Students Leaving Compulsory Schooling, ratified through Order No. 6478/2017, constitutes the reference document that establishes the matrix of principles, values and areas of competences to which curriculum development must comply, as provided for in Decree-Law No 55/2018 .
The Decree-Law No 55/2018 establishes the 1st cycle level education curriculum. The components of Citizenship and Development and Information and Communication Technologies are integrated into the main curriculum. Information and Communication Technologies is considered an area of an instrumental nature which supports the learning to be developed. The National Curriculum includes Information and Communication Technologies as a subject for 2nd and 3rd Cycle of Basic Education (6th, 7th, 8 th and 9th years).
The Dynamic Reference Framework of Digital Competence for Portugal (D-RCSF) define performance descriptive parameters by educational level and takes into account the following areas: (i) Information literacy, (ii) Communication and citizenship, (iii) Content creation, (iv) Security and privacy and (v) Development of solutions.
The Student's Profile by the End of Compulsory Schooling, as approved by Order No. 6478/2017 and Order No. 6605 of 2021, serves as a reference document for the organisation of the entire education system, contributing to the convergence and alignment of decisions across the various dimensions of curriculum development. The Student's Profile at the End of Compulsory Schooling includes competence areas to be considered "Information and Communication" and "scientific, technical, and technological knowledge." According to the linked competencies, students must manipulate materials and various instruments to control, use, transform, imagine, and create goods and systems. Students use resources such as tools, machines, and technical equipment.
The INCoDe.2030 aimed to expand ICT use, digital literacy and skills in basic education curricula.
Regarding gender and ICT, Law No 27/2021 Portuguese Charter of Human Rights in the Digital Age of 2021 sets the responsibility of the State to define and implement programs to promote gender equality and digital skills in the various age groups. The Closing the Gender Gap in Digital Technologies plan includes in its proposals strategies to promote the digital competence of women and girls in ICT within the INCoDe.2030 initiative. Also, Portugal Digital (2020) includes initiatives for Girls Engineers.
The Basic Law of the Education System (Law No. 46/86) states that initial teacher training must guarantee higher level training that provides educators and teachers with information, basic scientific and pedagogical methods and techniques, as well as personal training appropriate to the goal of the education system. One of the continuous training categories included in Decree-Law No. 22/2014 is the training of information and communication technology to specialist didactics or the school administration.
Portugal Digital (2020) includes the sub-pillar on professional training and reskilling, including teacher training (basic and secondary education) and continuous training of trainers in the ICT field. The "Digital School" Programme also provides a strong commitment to the training of teachers. Trainers of the National Qualification System and IT technicians in each school must go through a digital teacher training plan that guarantees the acquisition of the necessary skills for teaching this new digital context. The Portugal INCoDe.2030 also includes initiatives on teacher training, in-service teacher training and continuous training in ICT areas.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The General Data Protection Regulation defines the legal framework for the protection of natural people's data in terms of processing and free movement. The General Data Protection Regulation is being implemented in the national legal order through Law 58/2019. Portugal's domestic data protection legislation includes 2002 Law No 41/2002 on the Processing of Personal Data and Protection of Privacy in the Electronic Communications Sector (as amended in 2022), ensuring personal data protection in electronic communications.
In 2021, the Portuguese Charter of Human Rights in the Digital Age (Law No 27/2021), sets the legal foundation for defending the rights, freedoms, and legal guarantees applicable in cyberspace. It entails the right to access the digital environment as well as the state's responsibility to promote, protect, and defend human rights in the digital sphere. In addition, it establishes the right to privacy and personal data protection in a digital world. The charter states that the use of artificial intelligence must be led by respect for fundamental rights and stipulates that everyone in a digital environment has the right to personal identification, good name and reputation, image and word, as well as moral integrity.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The 2021 Law No 27/2021 Portuguese Charter of Human Rights in the Digital Age (2021) ensures that “everyone has the right to security in cyberspace.” The State is charged with the responsibility to “define public policies that ensure the protection of citizens and information networks and systems, and to create mechanisms that increase security in the use of the Internet, especially by children and young people.” Moreover, article 20 on Children’s rights mentions that “children have the right to special protection and care necessary for their well-being and security in cyberspace, children can freely express their opinion and have the freedom to receive and transmit information or ideas, depending on their age and maturity.”
The 2012 Student Statute and School Ethics, approved by Law No 51/2012, determines, in article 10, that it is illegal to capture sounds or images of teaching and non-teaching activities without prior authorization from the teachers, those responsible for managing the group or supervising the work or activities in progress, as well as, when applicable, of any member of the school or educational community whose image may, even if involuntarily, be registered” and, also, “not to disseminate, at school or outside it, namely, via the Internet or through other means of communication, sounds or images captured during school and non-school moments, without authorization from the director of the group.”
The Ministry of Education is the governmental department responsible for defining, coordinating, implementing and evaluating national policy regarding the education system (pre-school, basic, upper secondary and out-of-school education) and articulating education policy with qualification and vocational training policies. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education is responsible for higher education and defining and implementing policies affecting the national science and technology system.
According to Article 10 of the 2012 Student Statute and School Ethics, it is not permitted to use any technological equipment, namely mobile phones, equipment, programmes, or computer applications, in places where classes or other training activities or meetings of organs or structures of the school in which it participates, unless the use of any of the aforementioned means is directly related to the activities to be developed and is exempt.