While the Government here in Italy has announced various changes and plans to reorganize the cybersecurity effort on a national level, it is not clear the practical effect of these proposals.

Recently the organization of a new ministry for technological innovation and digitalization with Paola Pisano as its head was announced.  Already from the initial discussions in the Parliamentary Commission on Transport (still after years of discussion the Parliament doesn’t have a permanent commission dedicated to “technological change and the digital agenda”) it is evident that the most critical obstacle for the new minister and her agency is still a lack of resources.

Two elements seem to emerging:

  • a preference for a clear reorganization of agencies
  • an emphasis on a governmental intervention concerning innovation that impacts both the public and private sphere, with a sphere of action aimed at overcoming ministerial silos.

In the first case, the primary focus will be on the basically stagnant situation of SPID [1] As of September 4,8 million identities have been issued.  While the government has recognized that it needs to take back control of the initiative and change the focus of initial focus on leaving the planning and development of the program to private imitative to a more proactive approach on the part of the public sector.  The business model is not functioning as originally intended and identity providers are finding it difficult to develop any business activities based on the use of SPID by private parties so they have increasingly little incentive to improve the process.

As the article in Agenda Digitale suggests the State needs to invest in more resources, at the very least, in the beginning of the project. In addition, there needs to be a governance of the project that is more “incisive” where identity providers become the providers of a central agency under the control of the central government.  In the past governments have tended to favor a variety of initiatives that were largely uncoordinated between them. The new Minister will also have to deal with the PagoPA project that was originally seen as an example of a successful digital transformation. Unfortunately, only a minority of agencies are using its services. By law all payments in the public sector are supposed to be digital.  The latest deadline is December 31, 2019.

Generally speaking most of these difficulties relating to the effective development of digital transformation are tied to a lack of resources.  Aside from being a Minister without portfolio, the Ministry has around 40 people assigned to it.  A past report suggested that there should be at least 510 experts experienced in issues of change (of which 115 would go to the central team, 105 would be assigned to other agencies in the Central Government to work on projects launched by the central team, and 290 to be assigned to central other central ministries, local governments and technological providers.

It is not just a problem of personal; the most critical issue is governance.  The risk is that without a clear delineation and institutionalization of the scope and duties of the ministry the coordination and communication between different sectors and   territorial units will continue to limited. The national government seems clearly committed to digital transformation as a means of improving the relationship of the citizen with the state.

As in other countries, it’s clear that transformation cannot, in the long run, be  effective when based on sanctions and legal threats, particularly at the local level.  More needs to be done to help local public administrations improve their “digital” skills.  Education and support activities are critical to sustaining efforts at innovation.

Not just in Italy, but throughout the EU, evidence shows that innovation rarely can be sustained by private parties. Governments need to invest in more resources to help stimulate and to coordinate efforts to promote innovation.


[1] SPID (Public System for Digital Idenity) ia the program that allows Italian citizens to access all online services of the Public Administration with a single digital Identity that can be used from a variety of devices (ranging from computers, to tablets, to smartphones).