PEOPLE | 21 Feb

Flavia Marzano: “Innovation rhymes with simplification”

Agenda Open, Open Value, Open Code, or how openness helps innovation in PA

Innovating for simplifying, enough to be able to associate the word Simple with a Complex city like Rome. This is the non-trivial task that Flavia Marzano has given herself. A computer scientist and university professor of technologies for the PA, she has always been engaged in promoting innovation in the voluntary sector and is now Counselor for Simplification with responsibility for the City of Rome’s smart city project.

Little more than seven months have gone by since the mayor offered me the post of Counselor for Rome Simplified”, says Flavia Marzano. “An undoubtedly demanding challenge that I welcomed, recognising a golden opportunity to make available to Rome and Roman the skills and experiences accumulated in what today I call my ‘previous professional life’ in which for nearly thirty years I worked as a ‘technician’ alongside local adminstrations, ‘giving a helping hand’ to politics. A burden but above all a great honor.

Recently I was told that ‘Rome Simplified’ is a contradiction in terms, a sort of oxymoron. To answer this observation, I like starting from the definition contained in the Program Guidelines 2016-2021 for the Government of Roma Capitale: ‘Rome is simplified if it becomes a place where the exercise of rights and respect of duties are easy for everyone and where everyone can contribute to improvement’. This is the vision that guides the activities that we have undertaken with the Rome Simplified Department in recent months, starting with four broad areas of action: open government; digital skills; digital agenda (digital services, simplification of processes within the Administration, connectivity), smart city.

Why Open Data in a local authority?

First of all, as dutiful compliance with norms. Second, because publication by the PA of data in an open and reusable format is a strategic intervention for the purposes not only of enhancing the public information assets held by the authorities but also of ensuring transparency, accountability and participation, which are priority issues in the program for governing Roma Capitale.
In this context, as the Rome Simplified Department we are working to define a new strategic program that calls for reorganization of the Open Data portal of the City of Rome, including through possible partnership agreements with other local authorities.
The main objectives for the Digital Agenda of Roma Capitale are:

  • make data from the Administration and, in general, about Rome accessible and reusable;
  • make the data from the Administration understandable for citizens;
  • promote the reuse of data for the realization of services by enterprises;
  • promote the involvement of city-users and, in general, of stakeholders in identification of the data to be opened.

From your experience, what are the most useful and most difficult data to publish?

On the side of citizens, the greatest request for data understandably concern public services, mobility, mapping of sites to simplify traffic circulation, data on commuting and tourism, as well as on accessibility and environmental sustainability. These are data that the administration possesses and on which we are working to make them fully open and reusable.

In this regard, it should be noted that on March 4, on the occasion of International Open Data Day 2017 and the Open Administration National Week promoted by the Public Works Department, the Rome Simplified Department invites citizens, enterprises, civil society organizations, Open Date experts to a joint planning meeting in the Capitol, from 09:00 to 15:00, in the Protomoteca room.

The goal of the Capitoline Administration is to launch a participatory process on openness and reuse of public data, defining a shared road map together with the participants. Starting with information already available on the Open Data portal and from others who will be attending the meeting, working groups will be formed to define what are the most significant data and their possible use in promoting social innovation and joint planning processes, including through practical experimentation on the data available.

What is the most interesting Open Data project you have seen?

Of the many virtuous experiences of data openness carried out in recent years at both international and national level, I willingly cite Open Data del Trentino catalogue, one of the portals I consider among the most evolved from the point of view not only of the quantity and quality of the dataset available, but also because of the technological instruments for displaying data offered.

How can Big Data help the PA to manage public resources better?

The analysis of Big Data through the use of Sentiment Analysis, for example, allows for easier understanding of information which, although not structured, can contribute to the creation of a “decision-making dashboard”, an instrument that can be used by politics to take decisions about direction and, at the same time, at the service of administration structures and managers to support them in sounder and more efficient management of public resources, providing them with a more detailed and richer picture than the analysis of simple open data.

As a convinced supporter of openness, what are the advantages of openness and the sharing of data and, above, all knowledge?

During my ‘previous professional life’, which I have already referred to, I always tried to bring the concept of sharing into local and national politics. Sharing of data, knowledge and experience. A commitment that I pursued working with other people and organizations, and that led to important milestones with FOIA, Open Data and Free Software, to name just a few. A commitment that continues, of course, with equal conviction in my current guise as Counselor, keeping alive collaboration with associations and, in general, with stakeholders, who are fundamental for the function of providing a link beteen administration and citizens whose requests are collected.

Representatives of professional associations and civil society were, in fact, involved in the participatory process that the Rome Simplified Department pursued for defining the Digital Agenda of Roma Capitale. Furthermore, in order to stimulate interaction between the Administration and citizens according to the principles of Open Government, we opened both an online consultation – via the Ideario – and a physical consultation with roundtables for analysis and discussion.

Sharing, transparency and participation can and should, therefore, become a constituent and identifying part of the Administration. These are goals which cannot ignore the accessibility of data that allows citizens the opportunity to know, verify and knowingly evaluate the work of the public machine. In this context, new technologies are presented as instruments for facilitation of the process of acquisition of information, thus ensuring the involvement of citizens in the choices of the Administration.


To summarize the activities that the Rome Simplified Department is carrying out on the Openness front, we have started to decline our personal alphabet: the OPEN ABC.

 

  • Open A is Open Agenda. My agenda is public, open, shared and can be consulted online directly from the institutional page of the Department: anyone can know where I am, who I meet, what is my appointments timetable.
  • Open B is Open Budget. As is known, the budgets of the Public Administration must be public by law. Through the OpenBudget platform, the budgets of Roma Capitale over the last 10 years have been made easier to readable and understand even for non-experts, thanks to special explanatory infographics.
  • Open C is Open Code. In October last year, the City Council approved a resolution that calls for the use of free software and the gradual migration of existing Capitoline administration IT systems to Open Source solutions.

This is an alphabet that we want to enrich and make popular, also by looking at the experiences of other Italian administrations on these issues in order to pool innovation. ‘We Pool Innovation’ is the title of the initiative that we launched in October last year in Rome and which has continued in recent months through a roadshow that has involved many Italian cities including Bologna, Reggio Calabria and Milan with aim of open a space for sharing and debate between the Counselors for Innovation and Counselors for Digital in all Italian municipalities.

The next Roman event takes place on March 20 in the Protomoteca room of the Capitol.