The process of digitalization of public administration is part of a strategy that aims to improve the access to goods and services throughout Europe, both for citizens and businesses, but also aims to exploit the potential of ICT technologies to promote innovation, sustainability, economic growth and progress.
Thanks to the promotion of digital citizenship’s rights and the adoption of an open government model, digital technology offers innumerable possibilities both for the organization of administrations and for relations among citizens, enterprises and administrations.
An efficient and innovative public administration must ensure fast and high-quality services for citizens. This means reconsidering and redefining procedures and services in a digital perspective and providing other administrations and, as far as possible, also civil society the free access to data and services.
Several administrations already use contract registers and have digitalized tender procedures. The use of electronic signatures, the digital release of documents and information, or the electronic invoicing (both in the public sector and in the private sector) are no longer news. Nowadays, citizens can actively participate in the life of society through online tools, and it represents the digital transformation of citizenship. Considering the importance of this issue, it is necessary to educate people to digital citizenship.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP?
The “digital citizenship”, a set of rights and duties connected to the digital realm, aims to simplify the relationship among citizens, businesses and public administration through digital technology. By digital citizenship, the right of citizens and businesses to access all data, documents and services that interest them in digital mode is established, in order to guarantee a simplification in access to services.
The elements that distinguish digital citizenship are the following:
To achieve digital citizenship, it is necessary the computerisation of the public administration, which is called e-government (that means digital administration).
WHAT IS E-GOVERNMENT?
The notion of e-government has evolved, due to fast changes in the Information Technology field.
The European Commission in a communication of September 26th 2003 (with the title “The Role of e-Government for Europe’s Future”), defined e-government as: “the use of information and communication technologies in public administrations combined with organisational change and new skills in order to improve public services and democratic processes and strengthen support to public policies.”
In another communication, n.179/2016 of April 19th 2016, the European Commission established the basic principles on which the action for e-government must be based for the period 2016/2020. The action plan was defined as follows: “By 2020, public administrations and public institutions in the European Union should be open, efficient and inclusive, providing borderless, personalised, user-friendly, end-to-end digital public services to all citizens and businesses in the EU. Innovative approaches are used to design and deliver better services in line with the needs and demands of citizens and businesses. Public administrations use the opportunities offered by the new digital environment to facilitate their interactions with stakeholders and with each other”.
DESI: EUROPE’S DIGITAL PERFORMANCE
The DESI report (The Digital Economy and Society Index) is the instrument by which the European Commission annually monitors the digital competitiveness of the Member States since 2015.
The thematic chapters present an analysis at European level of broadband connectivity, digital skills, internet use, the digitalisation of businesses, digital public services, the ITC sector and related R&D expenses, as well as the use of Horizon 2020 funding by the Member States.
THE EUROPEAN SITUATION
Online services reduce the time spent in Public Administration offices. Given the noteworthy time saving, people are more willing to use digital services.
In 2019 the countries that obtained the highest score in the European ranking are Finland, Sweden, Holland and Denmark, becoming leaders of digitalization, with over 90% of digital users (from 16 to 74 years of age). These countries are followed by the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Ireland, Estonia and Belgium. Instead, the countries with the worst score are: Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Poland.
The indicators taken into consideration for the DESI assessment are the following:
THE ITALIAN SITUATION
In 2019 Italy ranks 24th among the 28 EU Member States in the European Commission’s digitization index for the economy and society (DESI).
In terms of digital public services, Italy ranks 18th among EU Member States, with good results in open data and digital health services. Instead, it still presents a low level of online interaction between public authorities and citizens: only 37% of Italian users send online forms.
Italian results improve in the areas of open data and digital health services. Italy is, in fact, the fourth EU country in terms of open data, with a score of 80%. It ranks eighth in the EU in digital health services: 24% of Italians benefit from online health and assistance and care services. 32% of primary care physicians use digital prescriptions.
Digital Italian Agency (AgID) and Digital Transformation Team coordinate the public services digitalization, highlighting the key aspects necessary to implement the digital transformation and indicating the perimeter within which the Administration must plan its digitalization process.
On 11th March 2019, the AgID published the “Three-year Plan 2019-2021 for IT in the Public Administration”, in continuity with the previous plan (2017-2019 two-year period). The project is divided into 90 lines of action bundled in the following macro-areas:
According to the CCA ‘s strategy, necessary elements to start the digital transformation are: Centralisation, Citizens and Accountability
The digital transformation of Public Administration will ensure noteworthy saving of public spending resources. Not only the administration would benefit from this saving, but also the citizens. In fact, public expenditures burden on citizens through taxation.
Digital4Executive, in an article dated May 24th 2012, presented an estimate made by the Observatory on Electronic Invoicing and Dematerialization of the Politecnico of Milan School of Management, titled: “By digitization, 200 billion euros can be saved per year in Italy”. The estimate referred to both the Public Administration market (for a total of 40 billion), and the private companies’ market (for a total of 160 billion). Since 2012 until the present day there has been much talk about digital transformation, but many European countries, including Italy, still have a long way to go. For this reason, Agenda Digitale, the newspaper on the Italian digital agenda, proposes the CCA’s strategy.
It is necessary to centralize functions and programming within a single subject. There is the need and the urgency, to recruit excellent staff who ensures the necessary expertise, without neglecting training of existing staff, that must adapt to the European Union standards. It is also necessary to invest in accountability, that means standardising for the whole Public Administration list of shared rules, in order to report in real time performance, progress and savings of the digital transition of the Public Administration.
It is chiefly necessary to put citizens, with their needs and daily difficulties at the centre of the Public Administration’s strategies. This means transforming all services for the citizen into digital format, focusing on easing access and use, on the inclusiveness and usefulness of digital services, to improve the quality of citizens’ life.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: TWI2050
The United Nations Organization in September 2015 drafted and promoted 17 development goals, to be achieved by 2030. Their progress is described in TWI2050 report, titled Transformations to achieve sustainable development goals.
The World in 2050 (TWI2050) is a global research initiative in support of the successful and correct implementation of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda, launched by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and other partners. This document aims to develop science-based transformational and equitable pathways for the sustainable development and to provide necessary information and guidelines to the political leaders of each country. Sustainable goals touch different social, economic and environmental areas. The focus of these goals is the “digital revolution”. It is now clear that technological evolution has become the driving force of the social transformation.
Digital transformation will radically change all the dimensions of societies and global economies and, as a consequence, also the very interpretation of the sustainability paradigm. Digitalisation is not only the tool to solve the sustainability challenges, but it is above all the engine of this extraordinary change.
The TWI2050 report outlines the necessary conditions for a successful digital transformation, such as prosperity, social inclusion, environment, sustainability and good governance. It also outlines some of the social implications associated with the increasingly digital future and develops reflections and considerations on aspects related to governance.
The second TWI2050 report provides nine key messages to achieve sustainable digital development:
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SUSTAINABILITY AND DIGITALIZATION OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
In 2050 about 2/3 of the population will live in urban areas and therefore it will be necessary to guarantee integrated connectivity services, smart infrastructures and reduced environmental impact in these areas.
“The processes of innovation and digitalisation of the country system and the local communities touch upon technological, economic, social, ethical, managerial and logics of cooperation aspects” (IIASA, 2018, p. 8).
The urban infrastructure should, for example, have an efficient transport system; guarantee universal access to a reliable and low-cost electricity network; ensure safe water and sewage; provide for sustainable management of the waste collection and recycling system; offer fast, broadband and low-cost connectivity to support businesses and the provision of public services.
All these objectives can be reached more easily thanks to new technologies and the digitalisation of the Public Administration.
Learn more about the innovation issue reading our article about smart cities.