Programa Tô Legal

Icons target



Icons use case study city info


São Paulo

Icons use case study main actors

Main actors

City Government

Icons use case study project area

Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2019

Tô Legal electronic system is designed as an accessible platform for citizens who lack formal educational qualifications or the experience often required to seek formal employment, to work legally and with dignity. Many of these citizens make their own merchandise and improve their production over time. In some cases, this allows them to formalize their activity within companies or as microentrepreneurs.

Tô Legal has introduced the Authorization Ordinance for Commerce and Service Provision (PCS), a document that can be easily obtained, due to the system’s automated application process. The PCS authorizes work in public areas for up to 90 days. Citizens can obtain multiple authorizations as long as the specified dates and times do not overlap. The system manages a total of 14 documents, comprising 11 different permits and 3 types of authorization.

Sustainable Development Goals

End poverty in all its forms everywhere
End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Guangzhou Award

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2023.

São Paulo, Brazil

Size and population development
São Paulo has one of the world’s fastest-growing metropolitan populations. It is the most populous city in Brazil and the Southern Hemisphere. In 2017 population was estimated at 12,106,920.

Population composition
São Paulo is a multicultural city with approximately 2.3 million immigrants who arrived in the state between 1870 to 2010. Brazil has the largest Italian population outside Italy, with São Paulo being the most populous city with Italian ancestry in the world

Main functions
São Paulo city is the capital of São Paulo state, located in southeastern Brazil. It is an industrial center in Latin America. It exerts strong international influences in commerce, finance, arts and entertainment.

Main industries / business
São Paulo is the biggest financial center in Brazil and one of the biggest financial centers in the world

Political structure
The Executive Branch of the municipality of São Paulo is represented by the mayor and his cabinet of secretaries, following the model proposed by the Federal Constitution. The Legislative Power is represented by the Municipal Chamber, composed of 55 aldermen elected to four-year posts.

Administrative structure
The city is divided into into 32 subprefectures, sub-divided into 96 disctrics.

Prior to 2019, the only way merchants and service providers could work on public roads was through a ‘Use Permit Term (TPU)’, a document granted by means of public convocation/call, public application or competition. This rarely occurred and could take place only on locations predetermined by the local deputy prefect.
Prior to 2019, merchants and service providers were only authorised to operate on public roads by obtaining a 'Use Permit Term (TPU)', which was issued following a public call, application, or competition. However, this was infrequently granted and restricted to specific locations designated by the local deputy prefect. Another example is the process for companies to obtain a Bike Sharing Permit of Use often exceeded a year and requiring numerous trips to different districts. With Tô Legal, the permit is issued online within an average of four days following payment confirmation.
The primary goal of Tô Legal is to streamline the process of obtaining and permits for businesses operating in public areas and on sidewalks. Additionally, the initiative aims to enhance various aspects of permit management by improving transparency and efficiency, employing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for location tracking, and combating corruption by implementing strict controls over payments. This is achieved through the management of 14 distinct types of permits and authorizations.
The Tô Legal platform offers 11 distinct types of Use Permit Terms (TPU), each governed by a specific set of regulations. These include legislative measures to foster social and economic inclusion for various groups, such as the elderly, individuals with disabilities, former penitentiary inmates, and war veterans.
PCS permits are issued democratically for periods up to 90 days. Entrepreneurs can select their preferred locations (using GIS) and time slots for their activities. The platform also visually displays all authorized activities within the city on a service map, assisting entrepreneurs in choosing the optimal location and type of commerce or service. This feature allows them to experiment with locations and activities to find the best fit for their needs.
Before using the system, the first step for individuals is to formalise their status with The Municipal Treasury Office or register as an Individual Micro-Entrepreneur (MEI). Subsequently, they can access Tô Legal to select a work location. Information is readily available on the Tô Legal website, through email, or in person at any of the 32 municipal Subprefectures.
The system is designed for any citizen engaging in economic activities on public roads who seeks to legitimize their work. It also benefits existing document holders, such as permittees and entrepreneurs, by bringing transparency to their relationship with the municipality. Users, including workers, entrepreneurs, office administrators, and inspection staff, can easily access detailed information about the activities.
Tô Legal facilitates economic inclusion by offering flexibility in choosing time slots, days, and locations to suit applicants' needs. It also features a payment control grid that allows administrators to monitor revenue collection by document type and displays the georeferenced locations of issued documents on a city map.
"Tô Legal" is a technology-centric initiative, particularly reliant on GIS, and it integrates with 15 databases. For PCS, the application process is real-time, and upon payment, the entrepreneur can print the PCS from home. The use of technology has enhanced service delivery, shifted the culture away from in-person visits, and improved transparency, revenue consolidation, and budget reporting.
The management team diligently monitors the system, overseeing 14 document types. The dashboard, which includes graphics and revenue data, is accessible to administrators for tracking the initiative's progress and pre-emptively identifying any issues. As an impersonal system, it does not collect personal data such as age, race, or gender. However, it does compile details like location choice, activity, and equipment used, which informs the economic tendencies of locations and supports the development of public policies.
Feedback from system users, including document holders and civil servants, is regularly submitted via email. Citizens also provide input through social media and local news outlets.
This innovative initiative spans the entire jurisdiction of the Districts Secretariat and transparently indicates the locations of entrepreneurs on a GIS map.
The initiative has been implemented with funds allocated in the annual budget of the District Secretariat. Its support is secured through a contract with this office, which includes system maintenance, error correction, regular upgrades, and the inclusion of the portals capabilities by adding more tools and documents. 
Currently, the Commerce/Trade Association has proposed a partnership to improve promotion of the PCS and other documents issued by Tô Legal. They intend to be a hub to entrepreneurs who want to develop other businesses.  Innovative partnerships with the Municipal Treasury and other City departments are already in place to streamline data processing, resolve and update database issues and minimize bureaucracy in public services.
Support for the Tô Legal system is ensured through a contract with the Districts Secretariat, with a continued financial commitment reflected in the office's annual budget. Upgrades to the system and the incorporation of new documents into the portal's offerings are managed within the contracted scope, thus obviating the need for budget amendments.
Potentially, every citizen could be affected by the initiative. Anyone aspiring to be an entrepreneur can apply for an authorization. Additionally, any citizen can access Tô Legal website and verify whether a merchant or service provider working in public areas and on sidewalks is registered in the Districts Secretariat.
The system has improved the lives of entrepreneurs by eliminating the need for them to visit a subprefecture to request documents, update their registry, or pay municipal fees, as these services are now accessible online. Civil servants have immediate access to information regarding permits and authorizations, which streamlines the inspection process. Revenue collection has also been made more efficient, with funds being directly transferred to the Municipal Treasury.
During the pandemic years, City Mayor Bruno Covas enacted decrees to lower fees for the Authorization Ordinance for Commerce and Service Provision (PCS) and for other permits in response to the economic downturn. This measure aimed to support and encourage those who work in public areas and on sidewalks.
Even after activities were suspended due to lockdowns, PCS issuance resumed swiftly, ensuring that workers retained the right to continue their operations. The Tô Legal system served as an effective instrument for applying government guidelines and public policies, thereby enhancing employment opportunities for the citizens of São Paulo.
Constructed by a dedicated and industrious team, the Tô Legal system has issued over 40 thousand documents to date. Its foundation lies in innovation and technology, but even more so in efficiency, transparency, and speed. The system features numerous parameterized tools that are regularly maintained and updated by the Tô Legal administrators, a small but dynamic all-women division comprising four civil servants.

The introduction of Tô Legal has significantly altered the processes for application analysis and document issuance, necessitating an adjustment period for both permit holders and public office staff. To facilitate this transition, the system's management team has provided internal training sessions for office staff and scheduled open office hours for citizens to address inquiries regarding the new system. Comprehensive user manuals have been produced for both the public and civil servants, and these are continuously accessible for download from both the internet and intranet portals.

One key takeaway is that simplifying processes yields benefits for both citizens and government employees. For the municipality, the advantages of improved governance, increased transparency, effective corruption prevention, centralized revenue collection, debtor mapping, and precise budget reporting represent objectives that have been successfully met.
The team continues to envision new goals, striving to issue more documents and explore innovative solutions to enhance public services, making the city a better place for all residents. We are eager to share our five years of experience!

On the Map

Map placeholder

Want to know more about this project?

Jakki Mann
Melbourne , Australia

Jakki Mann

Individual | Content Curator

Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation
Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation

Institution | Urban Award

Photo gallery