Agid, a complex choice for Minister Bongiorno and crucial for Italy

The media attention of these days on public appointments seems, inexplicably, to neglect one of great importance: that of director general of the Agid, the Agency for Digital Italy. And this is symptomatic of the residual consideration that technological innovation still has in our country: acclaimed by all, in words, as the key to any development perspective, it has until now been relegated to a path of its own, luminous but in fact solitary and, as such, incapable of producing those extraordinary effects of which it is potentially a carrier.

Almost as if ICT could in itself contaminate worlds that, in the public and in the private sector, have marched, and continue to want to march, by inertia, as if innovation did not concern them, trusting in the unfounded hope that technologies can, magically, innovate everything they touch, even organizational processes and administrative procedures. It is not so, nor can it ever be.
Technological innovation cannot ignore the intertwining with administrative innovation: otherwise, it will be limited to lengthening the list of new “apps” that are in themselves brilliant, but that, scattered in different administrative levels and services, without a central direction are destined to remain an oasis in the desert.
The past years demonstrate the need, and indeed the urgency, of a completely different approach, in which technological innovation must become the essential piece of a courageous plan of change that involves the entire PA. A difficult, multi-stakeholder, but essential approach, if we really want to modernize the Italian public administration.
This is why the choice of Agid’s next general manager becomes crucial. It should not be a technician who speaks to the caste of ICT initiates, but a connoisseur of the PA, who has experience of the complexity of the organization of public powers. Someone who, for example, knows how to encourage regional and local administrations to cooperate in order to avoid the construction of twenty or eight thousand similar technological systems, with waste of time and resources; that has the authority to build real territorial alliances for innovation, that do not reuse, but shared development and maintenance.
Someone who, at the same time, recognizes the difficulties of the Municipalities to take on ever greater tasks and duties in the face of increasingly inadequate human and financial resources and has the good sense to understand that talking about the digital agenda, in those conditions, risks being perceived as a joke by exhausted mayors. As well as disoriented citizens who, on the one hand, see themselves being offered the Spid, but, on the other, struggle to advance their practice on the desk of a municipal employee.
In other words, technological innovations cannot remain a luxury option to be placed in a false position on a machine that is running slowly, but they must be kneaded with the gears of everyday life in public offices, lightening regulatory compliance with technological automation that saves time, produce more and better monitor the performance of the administrative engine.
An example for all: the obligation that the legislator, in a far-sighted way, imposed in 2013 on all PAs to publish the same data, in the same way and in the same section of its websites – called “Transparent Administration” (AT) – still struggling today to find full acceptance in the public staff also because it involves an increase in work. Instead, ICT could automate the supply of the HV section, lightening workloads and improving transparency, efficiency and anti-corruption.
The new director of Agid, therefore, will need to have experience and capacity to intertwine technological evolution with a rethinking of the conceptual and organizational map of public procedures and services. It will also have to represent the voice that, in the council of ministers, can bring the technology option whenever a normative choice risks being abnormal or excessively complicated to the state of the art of ICT systems (the recent intolerable extension of the times for the release of an identity document is exemplary).
The list of the names of the candidates for this challenge, complex and fascinating, is now public: not a few seem to have the “old” specialist profile, but just as many seem to be able to play that new role through their career and vision.
Minister Bongiorno has a complex choice, but also an extraordinary opportunity to change the step towards innovation in the public administration and, from here, in the whole country.