Since at least twenty years ago – in the beginning of the Internet Era in Italy – one of the favorite topics has been how to use the Net to improve the efficiency of the State’s administrative machine. The pre-Internet experiences of big cities like Rome or Milan (and those of smaller while tech-savvy ones) showed a clear path that has never been pursued.
Digital Public Administration, in Italy, is still a dream (or a nightmare, better). Just to name a few examples, on-line healthcare-related services are almost useless. The project for automating the docket filing of civil lawsuits is in a deep coma, while no sign of life comes from the administration of criminal investigations and trials. And give everybody a 2 megabit Internet access (as Mr. Renato Brunetta, Minister of Public Administration advocates) is not a solution; because – putting apart the technological underdevelopment of this country – there is a deeper motivation for Italy to live in a digital (early) pleistocene.
Citizens – often with some merit – distrust computers, as (for less “noble” reasons) civil servants do.
By one side people look at ICT as a devilish matter, existing to make everybody life pity (think of viruses, phishing, angry copyright holders seeking vengeance for the nefarious downloader attack tho their rights, personal identity stolen on the net and so on.)
By another side (a certain number) of civil servants spread all along the pyramid of power don’t like the idea that by “going digital” they are under close scrutiny and loose the traditional grasp on the normal citizen, who doesn’t need anymore to plea for a “favour” when interacting with public services.
Between these two contenders lays the “role” of the Public Administration as “Innovation Engine”. The alternative is very neat. It can be chosen to be a “follower”, thus letting the private interests of big corporation to rule the technological and process upgrade strategies. Or the Italian Public Administration can stand as a leader, giving the goals to reach and the path to get there, by imposing open technological standars (such as file formats, operating systems and – in general – everything that meet the idea of “openness”, non only in the Intellectual Property field.)
This is what United States of America did about forty years ago, when they created a computer-to-computer communication system free from royalties and copyright that changed not only those country, but the whole world: the TCP/IP protocol, i.e. the Internet.
This is the English translation of an article published by Nova IlSole24Ore on Oct. 29, 2009