egov brings you an exclusive interview with Lucio Stanca, Minister for Innovation and Technologies, Government of Italy – the key person entrusted with the responsibility for transforming Italian public administration through the use of ICT.
“Italy is one of the first countries in the world to introduce and execute Code for e-Government” Minister Lucio Stanca Ministry for Innovation and Technologies, Italy
The ‘e-Government Action Plan (22 June 2000)’ is the rulebook as far as deployment of e-Government initiatives in Italy is concerned. Tell us about the vision of Italy in this area?
When the present Government took office, Italy was lagging behind many countries in terms of IT penetration and usage. It was precisely with the aim of bridging this gap that the Government created the new Ministry of Innovation and Technologies that I guide. It put modernisation of Italian public administration as a focal point of policy and set itself a target for growth and competitiveness through use of technology. e-Government initiatives of Italy has set itself with two major goals: (i) simplification of relationship between public offices and citizens/businesses; and (ii) greater efficiency of Government processes using technology. We have already made enormous headway towards achieving these goals, notably in the public sector, which has undergone a transformation through the use of ICTs. In past four years, the Government has introduced various regulatory reforms and laid foundations for an efficient public administration that is more responsive to the demands of public and businesses. These regulations have been formalised in the form of “Code for e-Government”, which for its homogeneity and completeness, can be considered a “Magna Carta” for any modern public administration. Italy is one of the first countries in the world to introduce and execute this important reform. The Code also accords centrality to right of citizens and obliges the entire Government machinery to adopt information technology as their main tool of work. In essence, we have assisted the birth of “digital citizen”, having new rights and opportunities.
The services that are available online vary from accounting, e-Procurement, e-Taxation, e-Payment, Government intranet, population registry, cadastre, e-Customs, e-Justice, to e-Statistics. Are these services in full transactional mode? What are the feedbacks from people/users?
Many of the applications are already up and running. For example, 100% of income tax returns are now made online and we have many more on-going e-Government projects. A Public Connectivity System (PCS) has been set up to network all central and local public offices, including Italian consular offices abroad. For citizens, e-Government is becoming an indispensable faculty that gives them access to public services without restrictions of time or place. A poll has found that 54% of Internet users in Italy make use of Government websites, which is higher than other developed countries like Britain (50%) and Germany (40%). In addition, 62% of visitors to Italian Government websites have declared themselves as “very satisfied” with the services they find there.
The structure of the Ministry for Innovation and Technologies comprise of 4 Offices and 12 Services. It seems that there is a very thin line between, say, the Office for the Information Society (Division for Digital Technologies for Citizens and Businesses) and the Office for Digitalisation of Public Administration (Division for Regional and Local Government) – what is the inherent mandate that separates these offices?
The Ministry for Innovation and Technologies (which is from an administrative point of view a Department within the Presidency of the Council of Ministers) was established with a Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers, on 27 September 2001. It is made up of four Offices and 12 Services – two of which report directly to Head of the Department. The Office for the Information Society is in charge of promoting, coordinating and steering activities for the development of the Information Society as well as for relevant administrative, regulatory and planning measures. It concerns itself particularly with projects and programmes for digitalisation in areas relating to young people and businesses. The Office for the Digitalisation of the Public Administration, on the other hand, is responsible for organising the regulatory strategy of the Department and specifically, preparing laws, regulations, administrative directives and legal texts.
Italy has undertaken commendable work in Iraq, Mozambique, etc. in the arena of ‘ICT for better public administration’. What is Italy’s commitment on the ‘e-Government for Development’ Initiative and in the ‘e-Europe Plan 2005’?
In the G-8 Summit at Genoa, Heads of State and Governments approved an Action Plan to bridge the digital divide between developed and developing countries. On this occasion, Italy announced its intent to implement e-Government projects in developing countries and those with transitional economies. Thus emerged a new priority for Italian Development Cooperation – ‘e-Government for Development’. We’re already working on 16 projects in 14 different countries. In addition to projects in Iraq and Africa, we are working in Latin America, the Caribbean and eastern European countries, such as Macedonia and Albania. In the Middle East region we are working in Jordan and Lebanon. Italy has also taken up a proactive role in the European scenario through the ‘e-Europe’ programme under the framework of Lisbon Strategy. This programme adopts an open method of coordination among representatives of the Member States contributing towards identification of legislative needs, objectives and common actions for ensuring most effective use of ICT for citizens, business and Government. Considering the potential of our Government made e-Government policy as the priority issue during the semester of Italian Presidency of the European Union in 2003. Our point of view has been shared by the European Commission and by Member States, resulting in the initiative to become a success.
What have been the efforts to address the change to an electronic form of Governance in Italy (for instance – ICT training for Government employees, process re-engineering, etc.)? Kindly elaborate.
Change has always been a source of suspicion, especially when it affects engrained processes and habits. The digital revolution must therefore be cultural before it can be technological. For this reason, the Government has rolled out programmes for instructing and re-training public sector employees with the aim of increasing both quality and quantity of ICT use in transactions between public offices and citizens or businesses. We are also promoting e-Learning through new technologies as it has immense potential to cater to large number of people at once and make them technology-friendly.
It is wonderful to know that you have taken initiative for promoting safe and informed Internet usage, especially by children (“Internet & Children” Code). Kindly elucidate this agenda, briefing on how it helps in creating Internet ethics.
Internet is a very powerful tool of knowledge, communication and social progress. However, by virtue of its enormous potential, Internet can also pose a risk for the society and propose much that is bad and even offensive. It would be mistaken, however, to try to avoid these dangers by limiting its availability. Rather, it is necessary to regulate and monitor them. To address this issue, the Italian Government has formed a Technical Committee in July 2002, comprising representatives from ten Ministries and two public watchdog bodies (namely, Communications Authority and Data Protection Authority). Another Government initiative is “Who’s Afraid of the Internet” – a section of the Government portal (Italia.gov.it) containing practical information and advice on safe web surfing. The same portal also offers downloadable filter designed by the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) that preventatively screens language, images and content of websites. In collaboration with ten other Ministries who are engaged in our national anti-paedophile plan (“Ciclope”), we are proposing for a multimedia publication for women (mothers, teachers et al), who play a crucial role in the education of children. In addition, our Parliament is currently examining a Bill to combat the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography on the Internet. The Bill proposes a thorough approach to the problem by outlining specific technical, organisational and administrative actions that could restrict offensive use of Internet, specifically by young users.
Tell us about the OECD-MENA initiative? Any similar work plan for Asia on North-South partnership?
Italy is quite active in MENA countries area with projects in Jordan, Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia and a forthcoming project in Lebanon. The regional approach has always been our preferred ‘modus operandi’ in this area. As for Asian initiatives, the Italian Government took part in launching the e-Government Conference in Amman and also decided to sign Memorandum of Understanding with Government of Jordan and UNDP to start implementing projects.
ITALY: FAST FACTS
• More than 40% of the “priority” services are available online.
• More than 1.5 million digital signatures have been distributed.
• 71% of public sector employees are now ICT-enabled compared with 31% in 2001.
• 144 million e-mails are exchanged among Government offices.
• 164 million e-mails are exchanged between Government and public offices.
• Percentage of population using a computer: 37% (2002)
• Percentage of population using Internet: 29% (2003)
• Internet usage by enterprises of 10+ employees: 83% (2003)
• Internet usage by enterprises for interaction with public authorities:
(A) Obtaining information: 68% (2003)
(B) Obtaining forms: 53% (2003)
(C) Returning filled forms: 35% (2003)