19 de October, 2022
I was alerted to an article published in Nature – the international journal of the scientific community – and my eyes almost popped out of my sockets. The title was not exactly simple. Something about “matrix multiplication algorithms”. But its implications were echoed all over Twitter: machine learning is getting better. In plain language: computers are getting better at teaching other computers how to work faster. Ultimately, everything is about to become “exponential” and the implications for different industries and countries are huge.
A few years ago the expression “fourth industrial revolution” was on the lips of futurists. To many observers, it was just another buzzword. Yes, computers and the Internet were creating a new kind of industrial revolution. So what! But it quickly became very clear that business and industry were being accelerated as never before, and things were going to get faster and faster.
We are already beginning to see this become a reality. The term “ubiquitous computing” has entered the lexicon, as computers have come to surround us, in our pockets, wrists, cars and appliances. Significant parts of our lives already have the ability to be “smart“, including the lighting in our homes.
New types of video games and experiments are emerging in the form of Extended Reality(XR). Gene editing and synthetic biology are addressing the diseases of the future. It is inevitable that nanotechnology and “materials science” will focus on the climate crisis, along with new energy solutions such as nuclear “fusion” – all designed, perhaps, with the new quantum computing. But even closer is green hydrogen, which could provide energy for the air transport of the future.
“The race is on. Is Portugal about to overtake Estonia as the next Technology Tiger? All indications are that it is.”
For countries like Portugal, the consequence of these trends is obvious: in the future, the size of the country and the economy, the population scale – none of that will matter. As long as the country can capture the power of computing and the Internet, there is no limit imposed by the size of the economy. And this has already been demonstrated in at least one European country: Estonia.
With a population of only one million, “E-stonia,” as it has called itself, through its “Tiigrihüpe” (Tiger Leap) policy, had put 97% of its schools online by 1998. In 2000, Estonia went so far as to declare that Internet access is a Fundamental Human Right. This, when only 1.7% of the world had access to the internet.
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The way the country has used its digitalization policies to leverage the economy cannot be underestimated. Thanks to the “E-residency” program, virtually everyone can open a bank account and set up a business in the country.
All these policies have helped Estonia to capture major tech companies such as Skype, Wise, Bolt and Pipedrive. Today, the high-tech sector accounts for 15% of GDP.
But Estonia is not alone. In Europe, Portugal is the new “e-miúdo” of the neighborhood.
Farfetch was the first unicorn in Portugal, in 2015, followed by OutSystems and Talkdesk in 2018, then Feedzai, Remote, Sword Health and Anchorage Digital in 2021. And these are joined by SaltPay, Unbabel and Sensei. Portugal is overtaking Spain, Italy and Greece as a country of tech startups .
In addition, it is becoming a destination for the green technology clusters of the future. Lisbon was named European Green Capital in 2020 by the European Economic Association.
The combination of these trends in technology and business attraction is contributing heavily to the economy. Who needs to be a big country when you can move at the speed of the fastest computers on the planet?
The race is on. Is Portugal about to overtake Estonia as the next Technological Tiger? Everything indicates that it is.
Article by Mike Butcher, originally published in the Diário de Notícias newspaper.