I know. Not a great title for a post on the website of an association that aims to “bringing innovation to the Italian political agenda”. But maybe it's also the case to start communicating in a slightly different way than usual. I propose to all of us who work in this sector to do something innovative: a little self-criticism. Follow me for a minute as I tell you a short story.

Yesterday afternoon I had to carry out an unpleasant task: pay a fine for no parking. I admit the crime. I have to pay. On the back of the assessment, I am dutifully informed that I can cross all of Rome to go and pay at a municipal office at times that are impossible for those who work. Or I can pay at the Post Office. But even there they would wait for me a couple of hours in line. Do you want my "smart city" does not offer me a smart way to pay online?

I go to the Municipality of Rome website and after 10 minutes of searching I have not found anything. I fool myself. By now I should know that PA sites are scientifically studied so you don't find what you're looking for. I go to Google. Boom! Five seconds and I find the payment management system of the Municipality of Rome. In fact, I remember it was one innovation announced with much emphasis a few years ago. Fantastic: if you have an active account with the Revenue Agency you can log in immediately! After a succession of six tedious screens of useless information my enthusiasm suddenly vanishes, when on the page that should finally let me authenticate I read: "The service is temporarily suspended". I curse to myself. Couldn't they text me six screens ago?

Patience. It will mean that it's time for me to open an account at the post office to use theirs innovative online services: they advertise that you can pay by credit card and that's what I need. Ten minutes and I'm registered. But then to access the device services I have to re-authenticate and it reports an error. I spend another ten minutes verifying that I have correctly entered my username and password. Then the lighting: let's try Chrome instead of Safari. Works. Evidently the Post Office does not have the resources to invest in testing the compatibility of their services with all the major browsers. And why does one authentication work and the other not? Bah. We pay and don't ask too many questions. Yes, too easy! When I got to the point, I discover that you can pay by credit card, but not with white slips. The red ones yes, the white ones no. Mysteries.

At this point I have already wasted more than three quarters of an hour. I could have been in the middle of the queue at the post office. I persevere out of pique. I find that a service innovative of Lottomatica allows you to pay fines at the tobacconist's, but only in cash. Well, better than nothing, at least there's no queue. I dress and go. “I'm sorry but the fines established with a TPL form cannot be paid here. Only those with the slips that have the barcode on them. It's not our fault if the Municipality has different ways of raising fines ". Another half hour wasted. I decide not to waste time trying out the innovative service that allows you to pay fines at Monte dei Paschi ATMs. I would probably find that loafers are mandatory and I only have lace-up shoes.

This morning I've been in line for over an hour at the post office and at least as much is waiting for me. But I can use my iPad to write this post and avoid wasting these two hours of my life altogether. Ah, the beauties of innovation that works!

Every fairy tale has its moral.

To begin with, the typically self-referential innovation of public structures does not improve the citizen's life. If anything, it makes it worse by introducing further fragmentation of procedures. It is a simple mechanization of madness.

But it wouldn't be so serious: it would be enough to ignore it. However, if the perception of the person in the street is that innovation in the PA makes his life worse, then at a time when he needs to build consensus around extremely painful and unpopular measures, a government certainly cannot base its communication on the advantages chimera of one indifferent innovation to the needs of the citizen.

If there is one in the world broken user experience to be fixed is certainly the one offered to citizens by the Italian PA. So, if we want to make an impact as innovators, if we want politics to perceive a possible return of consensus from investments in innovation and raise it in government priorities, perhaps it is time to start thinking in terms of citizens' primary needs to be resolved and not only of ideal technologies or methodologies or principles. As long as the choice is between spending to keep an extra emergency room open and transversal chromatic georeferenced digitization of the archives of the public administrations residing at odd street numbers in cities with even cadastral codes, public opinion will not have a second of doubt. And politics feeds on the consensus of public opinion.

In your opinion, what are the ten priority daily problems of the people to solve which the PA should invest in innovation?

I still have a couple of hours to think about it while I wait uselessly in line to pay a fine…


About The Author

13 thoughts on “L’Innovazione Indifferente, ovvero perché il governo Monti non parla (giustamente) di innovazione nella PA”

  1. Attilio A. Romita

    I fully agree with what Paolo wrote and I add a consideration: if an expert in the net, blogs, posts and so on decides to queue "manually" how is it possible to push normal people to use the net?
    Then perhaps it is time to change the valuation paradigm.
    If a network function does not absorb at least the 10% of the corresponding "manual" function within three months then it is sufficient, as we once said, ... to send the manager to the office opened in Barbagia and start over. Within a couple of months or the barbagina office becomes an average city or someone will begin to think with the brain and not with the craniobreocraticus complex.
    Metaphor aside, perhaps it is right to start arranging what is there and to do this, use unskilled workers and young brains or pretend to have joked and resell, as well as the unused state real estate, the over 100,000 thousand pieces of hw that are in the PA.
    Merry Christmas to all!

  2. Flavia Marzano

    If I may... while I fully agree with what Paolo said "not only about technologies or methodologies or ideal principles", I don't agree that the Monti Government shouldn't talk about innovation (otherwise we continue to make the usual mistake of considering only technology as innovative) 🙂

  3. Well yes... in fact my post focused on IT innovation and so let's let this government talk about innovation in a broad sense 🙂
    Or maybe not. Let me be clear: that a government finally takes the issue of innovation into its own hands would be absolutely desirable. And compared to the nothingness of the last ten years, any crumb would seem like a hearty meal. However, I always have a worm that nags me: putting a serious hand on innovation in this country means making very important and far-reaching political choices. If it is true that unfortunately we have a political class that has amply demonstrated that it is not capable of this type of reasoning, one cannot even delegate these choices to a group of "wise men" devoid of any popular representation. That's not how democracy works. Resorting to the dictator to avoid disaster is simple common sense, but broad-based political strategy must belong to another dimension. The prerequisite for talking seriously about innovation is above all being able to make a political choice on the direction that this country must take, not today or tomorrow, but in the next thirty years. We are in one of those historical moments in which epochal revolutions take place. What meaning do we want to give to being Italian in the new globalized society that is being built before our eyes? What will Italy have to be? Do we want to be a heavy industry power again? Do we want to become a playground for tourists? Do we want to become a think tank? What do we want Italy to become?
    Based on the answer to this question then we can try to direct innovation, making strategic choices. And this is not philosophizing: the first thing that is written in a business plan of any company is its long-term mission. Then the medium-term vision. Then follows everything else.
    I feel the great failure of contemporary Italian politics above all in the total lack of ability to define a mission-country. Or more legitimate country-missions to discuss. This type of passage cannot be asked of an emergency government. Then that pragmatism requires trying to do the best with what you have on hand is another matter and I have never backed down on this. But you don't affect history that way. At most, it enters the news.

  4. Paul,

    first of all a hug. Luckily you're with us on this adventure of the States General of Innovation. 🙂

    It would be enough for your contribution to be read, and all the reasoning we have done in recent months would be clear and accessible to everyone.

    And it would be enough for someone who should govern innovation in our country (in a good way) to read it to understand that we don't want the impossible, but normality that can be achieved with nothing but common sense.

    The current government is made up of decent people. Think, there are no colludes with the mafia, people pursued by arrest warrants, scoundrels and scoundrels (at least in this we manage to be equal). Of course, in the Monti Government we register some conflicts of interest, and some exponents too many of an elitist social class who live outside our world and who therefore struggle a bit to understand our worries (the fines are paid by one of the personal secretaries or some student/assistant, and who cares if they queue up). But he pays the fines, and therefore we are already a good step forward.

    We have a year to go. Then the D'Alemas, the Alfanos, etc. will return. We have to be able to make ourselves heard.

    For example, to request that those who offer a public service concession, such as the Post Office, and who earn millions of euros thanks to this, must create computer systems that comply with technical standards. 2 well-written HTML lines are enough, actually written in a normal way (HTML is an easy language by the way), and the Post Office site also works with Safari.

    We will make it?

    1. Marco,
      that the composition of this government is infinitely better than that of the previous one does not rain. And it's worth making a few attempts to introduce some innovation with a small "i", that of ordinary administration which, however, by applying precisely – as you say – a little common sense can work wonders.
      The eight proposals elaborated by SGI are a good encouragement from this point of view: they are all small things that we can help to achieve. The big innovation would be to make them actually work.
      For Innovation with a capital "I", I'm not convinced that being able to make us hear from the Monti government would really help. He doesn't have much time at his disposal and he has no real strength other than that of desperation. The votes in Parliament are given to him by the same parties that have not been able or willing to do anything in this sector in the last ten years. It is clear that their calculation is to "pass the party and cheat the saint" through the Monti government and then return to "business as usual" once the unpopular measures have been passed and we are back in a position to squander some ' as a country. The bet, in my opinion, is to help create a widespread awareness that can impose attention on some crucial issues in a year's time. Time is very, very little and no individual, association or organization is able to achieve this result. However, perhaps, if we could ignite the collective intelligence of Italian innovators, then there could be hope of inventing a solution.
      Just the fact that discussions of this type are started is a good start.

  5. I am convinced that before technological innovation (which represents a means) our country must innovate culturally: until Italians consciously feel like citizens, aware of the rights and duties of a good citizen, there will be no technological innovation capable of changing things.
    Going back to the case of paying fines: in my opinion, the problem is not so much the impossibility of having effective telematic services (which not everyone could access anyway), but having to queue for hours at the counters and believing that this is inevitable .

    1. You're right, it's not inevitable. If innovative services such as online payments worked, there would be fewer people queuing. An advantage even for those who do not know how to use them.

      However, technological innovation matters. The cultural level of a people grows slowly, it takes decades if not centuries. I want to avoid queues today, not in two hundred years. And technology can wipe out an inefficiency like this in moments.

      PS Speaking of technological illiteracy. The fact that it concerns adults, and that it also affects university graduates, does not make it any less "illiteracy". No more indulgence with fifty-year-old graduates who don't know how to fill out an online form. They are illiterate; let them be a little ashamed, so maybe they turn their brains back on and study. The next guy who brags about not being able to send an SMS or makes his secretary print emails will get my most contemptuous stare. 🙂

    2. Victory,
      I also answer along the lines of Marco. I agree that cultural change is the fundamental element, but it propagates in slow waves. And it needs constant stimulation. Technology, if used well, can be one of these stimuli. Then it would take a lot of communication to motivate people to embrace the change. Remaining confined to the ambit of technological innovation, I'll give you an example. My father (74 years old) has no way of agreeing to make a payment or manage an online case. I've explained to him 500 times how to do it, but he "forgets it because it's too complicated". When the granddaughter – 3 years old at the time – obviously followed my brother to the USA for some time, it took my father 12 seconds flat to learn how to use Skype just to see her. And don't forget that.
      It would be a question of implementing communication and incentive policies in this direction. And in the case of queues, online services really help. Or let's think of the opposite situation: how many small mountain towns have been deprived of their post office because the costs are not sustainable? Since it is a public service under concession and everyone should benefit from it, why not allow the closure of an office only in exchange for real incentives to use online services? Save money by closing your office, but invest to ensure decent broadband connectivity in the municipality you leave. And privileged conditions for those who access your services. It probably doesn't solve the problem of the eighty-year-old mountaineer, but maybe it helps the young man not to run away from an area in the process of desertification of services. The latter costs dearly: the "unpredictable" floods that increasingly devastate our cities are directly connected to the desertification of services in the mountains. But I digress…

  6. Pingback: Indifferent Innovation, or why the Monti government does not speak (rightly) of innovation in the PA | Page Three

  7. Paolo, the theme you raise seems to me that of self-referential innovation, which does not start from the needs of those who should benefit from it. In other words, useless innovation.
    The approach we try to pursue is completely opposite, starting from the needs, quantifying the benefits. And the obstacles along this path, I agree with what Vittoria writes, are above all cultural. But not cultural only in the sense of "understanding" but also of attention to the short term, to gain and immediate "fame".
    This is also why I think it is revolutionary to think of a strategic plan on innovation that starts from the needs of citizens and aims to improve the quality of life.

  8. Pingback: Digital frontiers » Indifferent Innovation, or why the Monti government does not (rightly) talk about innovation in the PA

  9. Julius Curiel

    Paolo, yours is a fantastic post! I fully share. My experience in national and then local e-government projects has taught me that for our public administrators, innovation is just a "necessary nuisance": 10 years after the explosion of the Internet as a mass phenomenon, they only understood that to be an a-la-page politician you have to do something in terms of innovation, dematerialization and online services, but they don't really believe in it. And so, they get away with giving two cross indications to activate "something on the Internet" to bureaucrats who don't know what the correlation between resources and results is, who don't chew on project-management, who don't even consider the problem that every project must satisfy its intended users, in the times and in the manner that *the users themselves expect*. In the meantime, the aforementioned politicians are completely disinterested in the results (possibly…) obtained, in the quality of the work carried out, in the actual benefits that the initiatives they have set up have been able to bring. They get away with a presentation conference, a triumphant press release, et-voilà, Italian public innovation is served. It is a pity that very often it does not produce any repercussions on the daily life of citizens, of the real country. In Italy we have valuable public innovation managers, and Flavia Marzano herself whom I read above is a clear example of this, but they are a very small minority. And so the only solution – the one that I try to practice every day amidst a thousand difficulties and frustrations – is to spend a lot of time explaining the technology and its concrete applications to the Administrators, to involve them, to make them understand that with an innovation real money is saved and more services are offered, that true innovation is the one that they themselves can see, touch, use in their everyday life, when they once again become simple citizens who save time and money thanks to it. And above all that if it doesn't do these things, it isn't true innovation.

  10. Pingback: Indifferent Innovation, or why the Monti government does not speak (rightly) of innovation in the PA | States General of Innovation | Open All :) | Scoop.it

Leave a Comment