Digital media and active citizenship: the Matosinhos story

Helder Gonçalves, Câmara Municipal de Matosinhos

Helder Gonçalves, Câmara Municipal de Matosinhos

Matosinhos is a medium-sized city in the north of Portugal, with a population of some 170,000.  But this is a town that punches above its weight when it comes to digital media, earning Matosinhos several national and international awards.

Much of the credit for these achievements is due to Helder Gonçalves, who coordinates the Municipality’s digital presence virtually single-handed.  The Matosinhos story can serve as inspiration for other towns who are wondering what results can be achieved with a relatively modest investment of resources in digital media.

Speaking earlier this week at a meeting of our network of regional communication officers, Helder began by stressing the importance of making a link between offline and online networking.  Matosinhos is a town with a strong community spirit and a wide range of civic associations.  In 2008, Helder and his colleagues decided to build on these traditions by providing new opportunities for digital engagement.

The town’s main website was completely redesigned, with the addition of social features including the possibility to speak with the Major.  Matosinhos also quickly established a presence across a wide range of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest and Google+ (Matozinhos was the first Portuguese Municipality to open an account on Google+, and the Mayor now participates in a hangout with local residents every fortnight).

Helder says that one of the main advantages of these social media platforms has been to provide a space for online interaction during the evenings, when civic and social life in Matosinhos is at its most vibrant.  Through the Facebook page and other social media accounts, citizens have the opportunity to participate in online debates, to make suggestions and raise complaints with the town hall, to check job opportunities and to find practical information about local services.

Gastronomy from MatosinhosInhabitants of Matosinhos are not the only ones to have benefited from the town’s digital revolution.  Helder and his colleagues have also put in place a range of services to attract tourists, including 360° images of the main attractions as well as a mobile app (available for iOS and Android) with a city guide and even enhanced reality functionalities.  If you are ever in Matosinhos, be sure to investigate the local gastronomic opportunities.  The town is host to a record-breaking 500 restaurants located within just two streets.  Bom apetite!

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