Portugal rolls out plans for emerging technologies

Portugal’s Council of Ministers have released a framework to establish and regulate “technological free zones,” or zonas livres tecnológicas (ZLTs) in Portuguese.

The ZLTs will focus on innovation and testing emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, big data, and 5G in real environments. The project is part of the Portuguese government’s digital transition plan that is aimed at boosting social-economic progress and facilitating the country’s transition to a sustainable economy.

The Council of Ministers promised that the ZLTs will be structured to lessen the regulatory and legal burden on the developers of new and experimental technologies. The initiative will also cover national and international projects; fintech start-ups will profit from it and start-ups in other sectors like autonomous vehicles, health, and agriculture will also be included.

The legal framework adopted for the ZLTs also goes beyond existing methods in other countries, which are usually “disparate” and based on a sector or pre-defined area.

“Although a large part of the initiatives that are being developed in other countries are limited to certain sectors – namely fintech – or result in the creation or multiplication of ‘regulatory sandboxes’ without a common legislative or regulatory treatment, they demonstrate that it is urgent that Portugal define an approach that attracts the testing of new technologies,” the resolution states.

The ZLTs will soften legal frameworks where feasible, create different sub-categories of frameworks based on each sector’s requirements, and will be led by the minister responsible for each sector alongside their national regulator.

The government hopes that the ZLTs will increase the “attractiveness of Portugal as a hub to test new technologies.”

As part of the Portuguese government’s plan to construct a digital society that’ll boost productivity growth, the government unveiled educational initiatives to broaden digital inclusion for citizens. The government also announced the release of €25 million to help start-ups through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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