The United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV), based in the city of Guimarães, north of Portugal, is a policy-oriented think tank dedicated to Electronic Governance; a core centre of research, advisory services and training; a bridge between research and public policies; an innovation enhancer; a solid partner within the UN system and its Member States with a particular focus on sustainable development, social inclusion, and active citizenship.
The Operating Unit strives to cement its role as an international reference of excellence in this area, bringing together multidisciplinary and multicultural teams around complex problems and emerging challenges. It is a multidisciplinary organisation of scholars interested in, and dedicated to, the study and examination of the development and impact of “digital governance and government” (Electronic Governance or EGOV) in order to propose sound policy-driven research. EGOV fosters the use of digital technologies to enhance and support public operations and policies, citizen involvement and participation, develop sustainable cities, and provide an inclusive public service.
Such as private industries, the public sector is investing and using more and more analytics, mobility, emerging technologies, social media, and smart devices to transform their comprehensive service delivery. These are changing the external relationship with citizens and other stakeholders, as well as the internal business processes and operations to take benefits of the new technological capabilities. However, while digital transformation presents new opportunities, it also creates new challenges.
The establishment of UNU-EGOV was approved, and the UNU-EGOV Statute was adopted, by the UNU Council during its 61st session on 12 May 2014, in Rome. The signing of the Host Country Agreement and Bilateral Agreement between the UNU and the Portuguese Republic took place on 23 May 2014, in Lisbon. It was signed by the Rector of UNU, Dr David Malone, and by (then) Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and for Regional Development, Prof. Miguel Poiares Maduro. The signing took place in the presence of Pedro Passos Coelho, Prime Minister of Portugal.
The agreements regulate, among others, the provision of the operating and capital contributions by the Portuguese Republic, and the provision of the premises, personnel, and infrastructure by the University of Minho. The latter are detailed in the Cooperation Agreement between the UNU and the University of Minho, which was signed on 27 October 2014, in Guimarães.
The Operating Unit builds upon a decade of Electronic Governance work carried out through the EGOV Programme at the former International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST, now UNU-CS), which was located in Macau. UNU-EGOV commenced its operations in July 2014 following the appointment and relocation from Macau to Guimarães of former members of this programme.
The United Nations University (UNU) is a global think tank and postgraduate teaching organisation headquartered in Japan. The mission of the UN University is to contribute, through collaborative research and education, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations, its Peoples and Member States.
In carrying out this mission, the UN University works with leading universities and research institutes in UN Member States, functioning as a bridge between the international academic community and the United Nations system
Through postgraduate teaching activities, UNU contributes to capacity building, particularly in developing countries. More information is available here.
UNU-EGOV is headquartered at the historical city centre of Guimarães since July 2014. Located in northern Portugal, Guimarães is one of the oldest cities in the country and historically associated with the foundation and identity of the Portuguese nationality. It was established in the 9th century as Vimaranes. Not only was the place where the first king of Portugal was born (D. Afonso Henriques, The Conqueror), it was also the main government seat of the County of Portugal, which existed between the years 868-1139. Back then, the county was part of the larger Kingdom of Léon. The Battle of S. Mamede, fought in the outskirts of Guimarães, was the pivotal point in the battling efforts of the people to gain independence from Léon and establish the Kingdom of Portugal, which happened on 26 July 1139.
An exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town, its rich building typology exemplifies the specific development of Portuguese architecture from the 15th to the 19th century. Places to visit include the historic city centre, which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001, the Castle of Guimarães and adjacent Palace of the Dukes of Bragança, and the Mountain of Penha that oversees the city.
The premises of the Operating Unit were firstly installed in offices belonging to the University of Minho’s Campus de Couros, having moved to its own building in 2021. Located in an old leather manufacturing area known as Couros (the Portuguese word for leather), it has been heavily reconstructed to host the University of Minho, a Science Centre, an Institute of Design, the Jordão Theather, UNU-EGOV, and the Agency for Administrative Modernization. All together, this area of the city became a joint space for education, research, and creativity that entangles history and technology.
How to arrive
Mainland Portugal is served by three main international airports evenly spread throughout the country: one in the north, one in the south, and one in Lisbon (centre). For people arriving in Guimarães, it is recommended to book a flight to either of these airports:
Porto is the closest airport to Guimarães, at a distance of only 50 km (30 mi), and is the only international airport serving the north of Portugal. It is a major gateway for European flights and an important base for low-cost European airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet. To reach Guimarães, the following options are available:
→ Bus: outside the arrivals terminal you can find the GetBus service for a direct connection to the city. The ticket can be purchased online beforehand or when boarding the bus. Estimated travel time: 50 minutes.
→ Train: outside the arrivals terminal you can take Metro Line E (Aeroporto – Estádio do Dragão, purple colour) to Porto-Campanhã train station and from there take one of the several daily urban trains to Guimarães. Tickets can be purchased online beforehand or at the train station. Estimated travel time: 60-70 minutes.
→ Taxi / Uber: widely available at the arrivals terminal. However, the price of a taxi or Uber to Guimarães is high when compared to other means of transportation (between 50€ and 60€). Estimated travel time: 40 minutes.
→ Car: once you leave the airport, take highway A41 (Maia) for about 10 km (6 mi) and then take highway A3 (Braga) for about 35 km (22 mi). Finally, take highway A7 (Guimarães) for the remainder of the journey. Highway tolls are in place, including electronic-only tolls. Estimated travel time: 40 minutes.
Located in the capital of Portugal, about 350 km (220 mi) from Guimarães, Lisbon airport is the main international gateway to the country and a major hub to flights from Brazil and Africa. It is easily accessible to and from all major cities in Portugal, while being the hub of TAP Air Portugal, the country’s flag carrier airline, and low-cost airlines Ryanair and EasyJet.
→ Bus: outside the arrivals terminal, several bus services are available to Guimarães. Estimated travel time: 5-6 hours.
→ Train: high-speed trains known as Alfa Pendular connect Lisbon to Porto daily. A further connection to Guimarães is required at Porto-Campanhã train station via an urban train. Lisboa-Santa Apolónia is the closest train station to the airport. Estimated travel time: 5 hours.
→ Car: once you leave the airport, take highway A1 (Porto) for about 280 km (175 mi) and then take highway A3 (Braga) for about 35 km (22 mi). Finally, take highway A7 (Guimarães) for the remainder of the journey. Highway tolls are in place, including electronic-only tolls. Estimated travel time: 4 hours.
→ Airplane: it is also possible to book a flight directly to Porto airport. Several daily flights from TAP Air Portugal are available. Estimated travel time: 50 minutes.
Delfina SOARES is the current Head of UNU-EGOV
Her appointment by the Rector of the United Nations University and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr David M. Malone, was made effective on 1 September 2017. She is the third person to lead the Operating Unit after Luís Soares Barbosa (2016-2017, currently Deputy-Head) and Tomasz Janowski (2014-2016).
Delfina has been associated with the Operating Unit since 2015 when she joined as Adjunct Associate Professor. She has strong ties to UNU-EGOV’s host university, the University of Minho, where she has held various positions over the past 20 years, including Lecturer and Assistant Professor at the Department of Information Systems, and Researcher with Centro ALGORITMI. She holds a PhD in Information Systems and Technologies and a MSc in Informatics, both from the University of Minho.
Delfina’s full biography and publications are available here.
The statute of UNU-EGOV was adopted by the Council of the United Nations University at its 61st session in May 2014.
ARTICLE I. LEGAL STATUS, STRUCTURE AND LOCATION
ARTICLE II. PURPOSES AND ACTIVITIES
ARTICLE III. ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND AUTONOMY
ARTICLE IV. ADVISORY COMMITTEE
ARTICLE V. HEAD OF UNU-EGOV
ARTICLE VI. PERSONNEL OF UNU-EGOV
ARTICLE VII. FINANCE AND BUDGET
ARTICLE VIII. PUBLICATIONS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
ARTICLE IX. RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS
ARTICLE X. REVIEW
ARTICLE XI . AMENDMENTS
ARTICLE XII. DISSOLUTION
ARTICLE XIII. TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS
REAFFIRMING in the terms of its Charter that the United Nations University shall be an international community of scholars, engaged in research, postgraduate training and dissemination of knowledge in furtherance of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
REAFFIRMING that the University shall devote its work to pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare;
CONSIDERING that the University shall function through a central programming and coordinating body and a network of research and postgraduate training centres and programmes to be established or incorporated in the developed and developing countries by decision of the Council;
CONSIDERING that the programmes of the institutions of the University shall include, among other subjects, the coexistence between peoples having different cultures, languages and social systems; peaceful relations between States and the maintenance of peace and security; human rights; economic and social change and development; environment and proper use of resources; basic scientific research and the application of the results of science and technology in the interests of development; and universal human values related to the improvement of the quality of life;
CONSIDERING that the University, by decision of its Council, shall create such subsidiary bodies as it deems necessary, and include a certain number of research and training centres and programmes to be established or incorporated in various countries;
HEREBY decides to establish the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance as a research and training programme of the University, which shall carry out its work as stipulated hereunder:
3. Pursuant to the foregoing, the UNU-EGOV shall:
The UNU-EGOV shall enjoy, within the framework of Article II paragraph 1 of the Charter of the University, the academic freedom required for the achievement of its purposes and the conduct of its activities within the overall University programme, with particular reference to the choice of subjects and methods of research, training and capacity development, the selection of persons and institutions to share in its tasks, and freedom of expression.
The UNU-EGOV shall seek to establish cooperative relationships for the realization of its purposes and activities with relevant agencies and organizations within the United Nations system, relevant national institutions and organizations in Portugal, and other relevant national, regional and international institutions and organizations.
A periodic review and evaluation of the work of the UNU-EGOV shall be undertaken by the Rector in consultation with the Advisory Committee. The Rector shall submit the results of such review and evaluation to the Council for consideration and appropriate action.
Financial and other actions to initiate the operations of the UNU-EGOV may be carried out by the Rector under the authority of the Council.
The Statute was adopted by the Council of the United Nations University, pursuant to Article IV, paragraph 4(b) of the Charter of the University, at its sixty-first session in May 2014 (UNU/C/61/L.9).