The Porto Citizen Card is designed to identify residents, but above all to offer them privileged use of their city, advantages and benefits in accessing experiences and services of the Municipality. With 46,126 active users, the innovation combines a physical card with a digital platform that integrates a website, a cardholder database, and resources to support current and new services. By concentrating several municipal service access and resources in one card, Porto residents are more aware of the benefits they have from their city and can take more advantage of them.
One of the innovation principles of the Porto Citizen Card, which guided the work developed by the Direção Municipal dos Serviços ao Munícipe and by Porto Digital, is to change the relationship between the Municipality and its citizens. Providing a better public service means communicating better and with greater proximity, reducing bureaucracy in contacts and anticipating responses to the needs and expectations of citizens. In designing the Card, residents were involved from the very beginning in identifying the card's features. They were invited to participate, through a focus group, in defining the essential areas to be included in a city card. Culture, Education and Entertainment, Mobility and Transport, Sports and Welfare were highlighted. In this process of co-creation between Municipality and citizens, significant problems and improvements that the design of the solution should consider were listed.
The Porto Citizen Card is a card which is only available to individuals with tax domicile in the city of Porto and students who have proven to study and reside in the city. It is valid for the period of 5 years. The application for membership of the card is carried out by completing and sending a digital form available on the innovation website, which is later validated by the Porto City Council team. If needed, to obtain it citizens can also benefit from the help of specialized staff at one of the following locations: Municipality's Office, Municipal Public Library of Porto, Library Almeida Garrett, Municipal Swimming Pool of the Constitution, Municipal Swimming Pool of Cartes or Municipal Theater of Porto - Rivoli.
With this innovation, residents can now access 3 important municipal services with a single physical card instead of 3 different cards:
- the Municipal Libraries reader card
- the "Amigo" card from Teatro Municipal do Porto
- the Municipal Swimming Pools user card
At the same time, Card holders enjoy classes, products and services available under advantageous conditions. Access to all municipal museums (Museu da Cidade) is also completely free. Thus, this card allows residents to have preferential treatment in comparison to non-residents or tourists.
Another fundamental service that this card added was free use of public transportation by young people between 13 and 18 years old. It consists of an annual subscription (school year) valid for 3 zones chosen by the cardholder (Andante 3Z Porto). The cost is paid in full by the Municipality. This initiative existed since 2019, but the automatic integration into the Porto Card gave it visibility and made this benefit known to more young people, who signed up for the Card to have free access to public mobility in the city. The budget relief for these young people's families (10.600 holders) is significant. Most recently, this feature was expanded for students under 23 years old, who still pay for the monthly fee to have access to public transportation all around the city without having to use 2 different cards. This expansion includes 1000 young holders who continue to travel with their Porto card.
Another important service, available to all users, consists of receiving relevant alerts in real time, free of charge. Through SMS messages, users can learn about information that interests them in a simple and fast format. This information can include alerts about restrictions, cuts and changes in traffic or parking close to their address, scheduled interruptions in the water supply that affect their home, and information from the municipal civil protection service, such as weather warnings. The scope of the available alerts may be extended with the evolution of the Card, always with the prior adhesion of the Cardholder.
Since the innovation launch on April 5, 2021, some initiatives have been included in the card to provide support to people, also helping to reduce some effects of the pandemic. Health Taxi Service +65, which since March 1, 2022, allows cardholders aged 65 and over to travel by taxi to health establishments and Covid-19 vaccination posts in Porto, paying only €2, up to 12 trips per calendar year. The Municipality counts on the collaboration of the Parish Councils, of Institutions responsible for Day Centers and of the Domus Social (municipal housing company), which support this population in joining through the website to the card. In October and November 2022, campaigns to publicize and issue the card for this population will also take place at the Health Centers and Vaccination Centres. Currently, there are 7.477 senior members and 2.702 taxi trips have already taken place under this service. Also, Porto Vouchers is a commerce support campaign, through which cardholders received €15 to be discounted in local and traditional shops. This initiative took place between February 14 and April 10, 2022, but new editions may happen.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The innovation responded to a specific challenge from an internal department of the Municipality. Porto Digital Association worked with co-creation tools, involving citizens and technicians of the Municipality in the design of the solution that best responded to it. Citizens, businesses, and other users were interviewed and involved in the creation of this innovation, promoting their engagement. Letters signed by the Mayor were sent, inviting citizens to participate in co-creation sessions. There were 6 sessions with 51 participants held, who had the opportunity to carry out needs assessment, survey services/data to be associated with the card, generate ideas, and make low-fidelity prototypes. In the last session, the service was evaluated, allowing for suggestions to be made and for the chance to dream about what the future of this service could be. It is relevant to note that innovation tools and design thinking principles have been part of the project since its inception.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Citizens can still participate in the iterative process of improving the innovation, by making suggestions for services or advantages that, upon analysis, may be included. Contributions can be sent using the contact form on the website. A digital version of the card is being developed. It already reached the testing phase and is to be launched soon. This new version features a personal area so that users can have their cards, as well as their digital vouchers available electronically. Users will also have the possibility to manage associated services and notifications of interest about the city. In the last co-creation session, the ideas suggested by citizens where evaluated and a timely roadmap was designed to understand their priority in terms of implementation.
Collaborations & Partnerships
As previously mentioned, Porto Digital, responsible for the development of the innovation, involved citizens and technicians of the Municipality in the design of the solution. Both stakeholders brought valuable insights into the usability and viability of the product. Moreover, municipal services such as the public libraries, swimming pools or theaters represented relevant partners to increase the usability of the innovation.a
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The innovation had an impact mainly on the resident population (in particular, young people and seniors), as well as public transport and municipal services, such as libraries, swimming pools, museums and municipal theaters. Overall, the city of Porto has become more united, through a single physical card, improving the lives of its citizens. Services linked to culture and city life offer partnerships with the Porto card. Only those offering services in the public interest are accepted.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The Porto Citizen Card guarantees the promotion and integration of municipal services, allowing for a quick and effective interaction, appealing to new audiences, and thus developing a greater spirit of citizenship. The card has become an identity symbol for Porto citizens and counts with 46.126 active users, from which 15.565 users are under 18 years old. The average number of daily registrations is 106. The main impact directly observed from the innovation was process simplification, which led to an increase in accessibility to services and infrastructures from the Municipality. Consequently, a sense of community and proximity begun to be felt among citizens, as identified in several co-creation sessions and through spontaneous contacts. In the future, other features will be included in the card, extending partnerships to other stakeholders in the ecosystem.
Challenges and Failures
The main challenge was the integration of the card with the existing platforms in the different services where it can be used. Due to the closed applications from third parties, the integration process is very difficult. The communication with subway and taxi operators has been achieved through calls via http endpoints (web service), which allows for both systems to communicate openly, and to perform automatic exchange of information. On the contrary, in the libraries, pools and theaters, the information must be manually inserted into their platforms. Nevertheless, the card can still be used to access all these services through a QRCode which is recognized by the systems in place and compatible with the Calypso system used in the subway platform.
Conditions for Success
First, it is necessary to start with two key characteristics: empathy and an open mind. The team responsible for this innovation should be open to the experimentation process, to listen and to understand others, to pivot, to get some feedback and work on it to improve, and finally be able to deliver something valuable for the users. Moreover, to develop an innovation whose success depends directly on citizen engagement, it is essential to count with people willing to share feedback and participate actively in co-creation sessions. At the same time, a Municipality willing to keep a close relationship with its citizens and to promote the access to public infrastructures and services which increase their quality of life, can be decisive. Lastly, funding, and other financial resources are crucial to keep growing the network of partners engaged in the initiative and to develop more activities, events and actions.
There has not been a complete replication of the innovation. However, there are technicians from the Municipality which have access to the back-office of the innovation and who have stated their interest in applying certain processes when developing new digital services. For example, in another project of the Municipality, there is an excel document which will be substituted after the process of automation and digitalization is complete. However, there is always the need to have a technician at the service desk to help citizens, who has already requested for an identical back-office to the Porto Citizen Card to replace the hundreds of excel documents.
It was crucial to listen to a diverse group of users before starting the design of the innovation, by using methodologies that check and understand the capacities and needs, thus improving usability. To facilitate the co-creation sessions, Porto Digital used its Innovation ToolBox, applying different innovation tools to explore the themes of these sessions. Moreover, during the first co-creation sessions, several strategic priorities were identified which were reassessed and validated one year after, in the following sessions. This shows the importance of constant pivoting, always including citizens and adjusting accordingly.
With the start of Russia's invasion and war on Ukraine, the team responsible for innovation took the initiative to exceptionally extend the allocation of the Porto card to the displaced people of Ukraine who chose the city of Porto as their “safe place”. In addition to the other advantages of the card, these holders get mobility support: free use of public transport for 6 months (amount borne by the Municipality). Currently, 626 people benefiting from it.
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
16 November 2023