e-Planning Agenda
Summary table

Research papers

e-Planning slide presentation

e-Planning, an emerging field
Brief inroduction

Goals and Rationale
Strategic field relevance and rationale to join MIT-Portugal agreement

Issues and Research Questions
Main problems and questions addressed by this field


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Goals and Rationale

1.1)       Goals


We intend to build a Program on e-Planning, to address the new problems and consequent research questions emerging from the new technology context and its wide and deep impacts across all planning-related areas. Such Program will integrate new academic degrees / curricula offering, a research agenda, national and international exchange programs and special academia-civil society-industry liaison programs. The key component of this Program will be a Joint PhD on e-Planning.


We envision this Program on e-Planning to be supported by and/or contributing to, 3 institutional components:


1 – A Portuguese e-Planning Center, as a Focal Point of Excellence, based on a multidisciplinary "consortium" within Portuguese Academia, with strong participation of related entities from public and private sectors and civil society;

2 – A strategic institutional relationship with USA Centers of Excellence on e-Planning, such as M.I.T.;

3 – A European Research Network for e-Planning, as a Network of Excellence (NOE), evolving to an Institute for e-Planning, within the framework of the EU Joint Research Centre, with possible headquarters in Portugal.


One key transversal component of the Program on e-Planning will be a network of Laboratories of Technology for Social Sciences, which may require setting-up new facilities but mostly adapting and requalifying existing resources.


In the current "consortium" for e-Planning, there is a clear added value in the complementarities of DUSP-MIT and FCT-UNL / FCSH-UNL / ICS-UL / FC-UL / ISCSP-UTL  /  DSP-UA / ESE-IPVC schools of knowledge and experience. In several areas where these institutions already excel and are at the forefront of innovation, it clearly provides a chance to obtain critical mass for effective leadership in pioneering research programs and course / curricula  innovation.  We aim for this Program on e-Planning to become a world-wide reference in the field.


1.2)       The rationale for e-Planning at MIT-Portugal


We have no doubt that this field is of strategic importance for Portugal, as it is for the USA, where MIT is taking the leadership with initiatives such as the "Urban Information Systems" agenda at the Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.


We believe also that it fits within the top priorities for the MIT-Portugal agreement in discussion.


 The MIT-Portugal initiative (and its funding core) was born under the "umbrella" of the "Plan for Technology" of the Portuguese Government.  We believe that a special effort towards modern technology is of particular importance to a country as Portugal.


A strategic "push" on technology requires the integrated engagement of many different key disciplines. It is not by chance that the M.I.T.- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, includes many different schools: Engineering, Architecture and Planning, Management, Humanities, etc. It is the combination of excellence in all these schools and bodies of knowledge, in close cooperation (with multiple cross-departmental, multidisciplinary research centers offerings joint courses and advanced degrees, as well mandatory courses on a core of social and humanities subjects for all students), that produced a top-notch Institute of Technology, a key player in national and international development.


It would be therefore a limited approach to view a "Technology Plan" pertaining only to the domain of engineering, even if associated with economy and management.


In fact, there is extensive evidence that it is not enough to "push" technology into a country, an enterprise, or an institution, to obtain positive results. Without understanding the mechanisms of assimilation and most of all its multiple impacts in society, many of them not immediately apparent, the full benefits of the new technology will not bare fruit, and may in fact have counterproductive effects (f.i. unbalanced systems, non-sustainable paths, inequity, social exclusion, etc.)


This is why we believe it makes full sense to have a focus on technology, but a focus that is satisfied by mobilizing the engineering and management schools and also the schools of sciences and applied social sciences; in particular those among them that have a strong connection with technology. In reality, some of these social scientists not only study the impact of technology but are also part of its development (some have both an engineering and social science background), extending technology innovation beyond the enterprise universe, to public institutions, NGOs, services and procedures. Filling the void of "market failures", promoting both development and social justice with equity.


The prestigious MIT school of engineering is at the forefront of many technology breakthroughs. However, the top edge of technology innovation is not a reserve of engineering; for instance, the well known Media Lab, home of indisputable technology advances, was born and belongs to the equally prestigious MIT School of Architecture and Planning. This is also the case of the "Urban Information Systems" research cluster at DUSP, a pioneer in GIS / Multimedia tools technology research and development.


As it happens, there is already a steady history of institutional collaboration between those MIT applied social sciences schools, such as DUSP-MIT, and Portuguese Academia. MIT being a Center of Excellence in both engineering and social sciences, it would make no sense to exclude any of them from the MIT-Portugal initiative.


It is therefore only natural that the Portuguese GovernmentÕs "Plan for Technology" expresses consistently this more comprehensive approach. This Plan proclaims the need to foster a joint effort on engineering and all sciences relevant to society, including social sciences. The following excerpts make this clear:


"The ÔPlan for TechnologyÕ is part of a new social contract for the modernization of society and the economic growth of the country. It is not just about the science at the Labs and Universities, or the technology developed and adapted by enterprises. It is about defending science and technology as a condition for the economic progress, but also cultural and social progress, as an instrument of growth, but also the base for a culture of rigor and openness, pillars of the free thought and guaranty of the future of the democratic life (...)"


"(...) one of the strategic vectors of the ÔPlan for Technology" (...) to assure the following strategic objectives at long and middle range: 1) To promote a modern citizenship, for which the use of the information and communication technologies will be a normal tool for access to information, to education, to work and to participation in public life (...) 3) To assure transparency, simplicity, and efficiency of the public administration acts relevant to citizens and enterprises (...)"


"(on Public Administration): The international economic integration and the emergence of new information technologies lead to rethink the role of the state in society (...)"


"These integrated strategies to support innovation confer to the Public Administration a vital role in the increase of country competitiveness, suggesting initiatives that aim as much the modernization of the administration as the approximation of the Public Administration to citizens and enterprises. Still in 2006 and as part of the initiative "European Information Society 2010", the European Commission will launch a set of measures to support the modernization of public services in Europe, stimulating the electronic government and a better service provided to citizens. Other initiatives seek to foster the creation and sharing of knowledge in Public Administration, and its availability to civil society and enterprises. (...)"


In consequence, many of the Plan Measures are directly within the realm of the e-Planning agenda. Here are a few examples:

¯     "internet for new citizenship" (...)

¯     "simplification and efficiency of the tools for land use planning" (...)

¯     "geographic information (...) to help planning"

¯     "electronic democracy"


It is also not by chance that the same Program of the elected Portuguese Government gives as well strong emphasis to the need to balance a) fostering a market-driven economy with b) a careful regulatory framework; calling the attention to the new challenges that represent this regulatory effort and reform, when the current trends on merges and consolidation (within globalization) may "capture"(sic[1]) the regulatory capacity and hinder competition and modernization. It follows that a strategic "push" on technology, intended to have a wide impact on both the public and private sector, cannot afford to promote technology development without promoting research on the new regulatory frameworks required by modernization.


In our view, we have now a very good opportunity to make an important progress on both arenas, within the excellent MIT-Portugal initiative, promoted by the "Technology Plan" of the Portuguese Government. In particular, in this moment, we have the conditions to move forward with building a joint agenda on e-Planning.  We have a set of highly qualified people at MIT and Portuguese Academia, fully supported by their Departments and Institutes, with a clear view of the common objectives, ready to work in a cohesive way, able to complement and integrate the current lines of cooperation already in motion for the MIT-Portugal agreement.

[1] Bases Programáticas do PS "V. Modernizar a Administração Publica para um País em crescimento"