Letter to the new Government on bureaucracy

Digitalizzare la pubblica amministrazioneThere is a new government and, like at Christmas, a letter is sent to it. This is not one that warms the hearts of the masses: it is about bureaucracy and digitization.

It's not exciting, I admit it. And that fact is part of the problem. If the Italians devoted a shred of passion and expertise to the efficiency of our bureaucratic machine which they devote to other activities, Italy would be the most competitive country in Europe, foreign companies would come to invest much more easily (if I remember correctly, we are second to bottom in Europe), and we and our children would find work much more easily. But no, we are not passionate about it.

Let's see if by going straight to the point I can elicit some comments.

First: on the one hand, bureaucracy kills (that is, it causes deaths, real, not metaphorical), it hinders the work of companies and makes citizens suffer, but on the other, it must be said in order not to sink into pessimism, it rationalizes and makes itself much more manageable without the need to spend very high sums, indeed saving, since as it is easy to understand, inefficient bureaucracy is also very expensive;

second: the most important thing to do to rationalize bureaucracy is to free yourself from the prejudice that the human species is intelligent. Much of the complications we experience are due to nothing but stupidity. Which needs to be crushed. Of course there are the wars of armchairs of very high executives, left for decades in their fiefdoms to accumulate privileges and power (especially in the way), in exchange for employment and favours. But fortunately the bulk of our bureaucracy's problems are the result of incompetence.

After all, who can think, nowadays, of conceiving things like the certificate of registration in the Chamber of Commerce or the DURC? Pieces of paper (or PDF files at best) that make Italians lose millions of days of work and involve unnecessarily high costs. This medieval approach to bureaucracy, based on objects (albeit sometimes digital) is totally meaningless.

How does it come out? I'll try to be brief, both because no one probably wants to read a treatise, and because imagining a completely different approach, and a minimally rational one, doesn't take much time.

For starters, they invented the Internet. This is good news for those who want to fight bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is information management. If I digitize them, I keep them in a standard and interoperable format, thanks to the Internet they travel fast and at almost zero costs.

Technical stuff, needless to go into details. Here's how it could work: I, a citizen (individual, company administrator, etc.) log in with my digital ID (I only have one) and do everything, absolutely everything, online. If I don't know how to use or don't have a computer, I go to any public office, to any now free counters.

End of bureaucracy.

It wasn't difficult, was it? 🙂 Of course, there are some problems:

  1. we must be sure of the citizen's identity;
  2. the citizen today is called upon to provide some (or much) information. Today the paper bureaucracy proceeds with self-certifications, but is this information, perhaps given in good faith, correct?
  3. the State increasingly entrusts its functions to private individuals (doctors, post offices, etc.). How about privacy, security and whatnot?
  4. the examples of digital bureaucracy already inaugurated are disastrous. The sites work badly or very badly, they are not accessible, they are not standard, they are complicated and evidently very often designed by incompetents;
  5. there's more or less another million possible exceptions and anomalies to deal with.

Can he get out alive? I think so, one step at a time.

For example, we could start with the unified ID (username, password and 2nd level password). Every public administration, and every private individual that provides services on behalf of the State, must rely on the unified ID.

On the one hand, this would already save billions (each PA has created its own identification system, which is always expensive, often bizarre and unreliable). On the other hand, it would make it possible to guarantee adequate levels of security: most PAs do not have the skills to design and manage a secure system (security is complex stuff). By centralizing everything perhaps, with a bit of luck, the "friends of friends" who win contracts by virtue of everything except competence, for once they can be kept at bay.

Second step: the information is stored in a standard and interoperable format. When I connect to a service, I always have access to 100% of information that the state has about me.

For example, if I have to enroll my child in school, I don't have to find my income information and provide it with a self-certification. I have a box that requires consent, I click on "Yes" and the system authorizes the school to access the necessary information, and only that. Respecting privacy. End of complications (and forgeries).

Am I leaving for abroad in my company car and am I stopped at Customs? I don't have to show a self-certification that I am the administrator of the company (the self-certification is falsifiable, and it's only trouble if I'm honest and I've simply forgotten it; it's clear that the scammer will never have problems). Instead, I will enter my username and password on the customs officer's PDA, and in a few seconds, without even getting out of the car, the customs officer will know whether or not I can drive that car. With data updated in real time, and not with self-certification up to 6 months old.

To those who fear "Big Brother" I point out that it is the old bureaucracy that lets information circulate without control. For example, wherever I need to qualify as an adult, I have to show my ID stating my name, where I live, exactly how old I am, how tall I am, etc. On the other hand, when the only information I need to disclose is who I am (by appearance, not name) and that I am of age (in 99.99% of cases it doesn't matter how old I am exactly, and that 0.01% of cases is remedied by releasing that specific information, and only that). And again, think of sensitive data such as disease. Today, if I get in line for an exam, I make very delicate information public to everyone, which is not infrequently stuck on a sheet of paper at the entrance to the surgery, for the entrance shifts. With a unified ID and a filter system, I only pass the necessary, certified information to the healthcare facility without having to show it publicly.

I could go on. Maybe one day we will talk about the digital medical record, which is also standard and interoperable. But as a first Christmas letter to the new government, that's enough.

Can you help me spin it? Will the new Minister Madia also deal with these innovations?

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