The 20th of October 2003 Lucio Stanca, Italian Minister for Innovation and Technologies, has presented the Italian Agenda for Innovation in the Department of Information Systems at the London School of Economics.
The presentation has emphasised the potential for innovation that new technologies can offer when properly applied in government and the need to ‘incentivise’ their diffusion in Italian business and society. The Minister points out that a holistic approach is needed to promote these objectives: from establishing the appropriate conditions for innovation in business, to the creation of an appropriate regulatory framework. Issues that convergence in the debate of what is considered as the ‘e-government imperative’.
There are many considerations that need to be taken into account when considering policy alternativesfor the Information Society. ‘To obtain a successful policy you have to govern the system’ and that happens when all players interact with the government at all levels by taking into account the cultural context where such policies are implemented.
For instance, it would be probably be more difficult to use innovations in the private sector in Italy because the country presents an industrial structure composed mostly of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. Hence, it would not be possible to ‘reengineer’ processes since there are no processes in the first place.
Knowledge and innovation, it has been said, depend on people, thus the Ministry is promoting educational programs to train teachers in schools and to prepare the future members of the Information Society. For instance, by targeting in 16 years old students and by introducing policies aimed at easing the purchase of a Personal Computer. Another initiaitive is also taking place in major cities in Italy (such as Rome and Milan) in order to provide senior citizens with the necessary computing skills to access the opportunities offered by the Information Society. In this case training support is provided by the nephews, which means increasing reach and developing computing skills for those who most need it and at zero cost for the Ministry.
Regarding the regulatory framework, current efforts are focusing on the introduction of a legislation tailored for the recognition of digital signatures and electronic Identity Cards. The latter being of relatively more ease given the country’s population custom of carrying and using Identity Cards as opposed to Anglo-Saxon countries. However, how to secure cooperation among players and interoperability of systems and infrastructure in a country where regions have a long-standing tradition of autonomy and freedom is just as important as having the appropriate technology in place.
The ‘integration factor’ is thus considered a main concern, as it would be crucial for identifying the ‘priority services’, for the simplification of bureaucratic procedures and for providing a single portal to citizens to access government services. The vision of the Minister is that the government itself takes care of the various ‘passages’ in the back-office removing the ‘burden’ from the citizens.
During the ‘Question and Answer’ session the Minister was asked what were considered as the obstacles of such agenda. Some areas of the public administration are protecting in removing jurisdictional boundaries – was the reply – so that there are not only technical but also cultural resistances and regulatory issues that need to be addressed before e-government can be fully operational. Another question was why there is such a focus on e-government. The answer was simple and direct: ‘Do you want the government to lay behind or to be the source of innovation within a country?’
Now I leave the floor to the readers of this BLOG for comments, suggestions and ideas.