SOCIETY | Feb 9, 2017

The Public Administration of the future

How Digital Transformation will change the PA by 2025 according to "TLC 2025" research

The public sphere will increasingly play a role in the development of infrastructures, market regulation, guaranteeing tax equity guarantee among different players, protecting the confidentiality of our personal sphere in the face of the pervasiveness of Big Data, but also as a protagonist – through the Public Administration, cultural heritage management structures, those responsible for territorial marketing – of innovation of service enabled by the digital development that will occur in coming years. By 2025, public actors will therefore be, in various ways, at the center of the scene, with their delays and their limits, but also with the many forms of innovation and improvement of which they will be protagonists.

Speaking of Digital Transformation in the public sector, what are the main issues raised by the “TLC 2025” research?

Governance of digitization

A supranational challenge. The starting point for analysis is obviously that of macro-regulation. With the growth of the variety and volumes of personal data produced and distributed by digital technologies, regulation of the flow of information and the possibility of extracting value will become central to the regulation of telecommunications. In the near future the principle will become established that because the network is supranational, the rules that will govern the use of Big Data should also be supranational. Applying this principle, however, will not be simple, and not just because of the obvious consideration that technology will constantly be ahead of legislation, creating recurring problems of adaptation and updating.

Agreement impossible. One of the main problems for supranational regulation will lie in being unable to reach an international institutional agreement on data management in the short term in view of the diversity of points of view on issues such as privacy and the right to oblivion. The Safe Harbour negotiation between the EU and the United States will stagnate, delaying the taking of decisions on Big Data regulation; things, then, will continue to move forward in a poorly controlled manner. (It should be borne in mind that this forecast, already not optimistic, was formulated before Donald Trump – who declares that he is not particularly in favor of supranational coordination – was elected president of the United States, ed.).

Same path, different step. In addition to the objective supranational relevance of certain issues such as those evoked above, it should be considered that the itinerary of digital transformation of Italy will be largely traced on maps already drawn by others. The digital backwardness of Italy will maintain the country – still in 2025 – in a condition of being a “follower” (or of real subordination) compared with countries in which digital has been cultural praxis for at least a decade. In any case, escaping the condition of persistent backwardness would require a capacity of guiding the transformative process which country will not have: Italy will lack a real capacity of governance of digital transformation, in 2025 like today. In fact, over the next few years, the overlapping of different subjects and a confused division of responsibilities for governance will continue. This confusion will remain one of the main obstacles to acceleration of digital transformation.

Centrality of data

Data Driven Administration. Progressing in the digitization of its activities and of its relations with the citizen, the Public Administration will have a mountain and growing variety of data, which will increasingly give value to: data collected by institutes such as ISTAT, data on its operation and the services provided, data of e-invoicing, etc. However, to adopt an organizational model based on Data Driven Decision, the P.A. will need heavy investment in the development of skills that are missing or deficient today. Professional figures that are more often than not absent today, such the Data Manager, will also be inserted in the Public Administration.

Value extraction. In coming years, therefore, the P.A. will equip itself to make the process of acquiring and organizing the raw data in its possession recurrent, according to designated objectives, and thus extract “value” by using them to develop models aimed at creating policy and decision-making tools based on effective observation of reality.

Health will be a leading sector in the advanced management of information, with a gradual extension of the existing experiences of collaboration among administrative bodies, such as the local health authorities, and other subjects, including those able to provide capacity related to Data Science (universities, etc.) or with individuals who, by managing intelligent and related instruments (from the scale to the heart rate monitor, etc.), collect huge amounts of data useful for epidemiological monitoring.

Big & Open. For Italy, one of the most fruitful lines of innovation in coming years will consist of the extension of the theme of “Open Data” from the P.A. to private individuals. The emergence of this need will concern, in the first place, services provided under public concession by private subjects (such as telecommunications, broadcasting, utilities), and services of public interest provided by individuals, such as those related to healthcare.

In more general terms, in the near future, there will be work on the creation of an ecosystem in Italy capable of enhancing  Big Data, through:

  • support for startups that propose innovative business models based on information assets
  • stimulus to increase the training of an adequate number ofdata scientists, namely appropriately trained professional figures.

Enhanced innovation. In the future, moreover, innovation will be less and less confined within major research centers, so that the paradigm of open innovation will increasingly tend to be reinforced. ICT will, in fact, be a powerful instrument of social change: community micro-innovations community – which will start from the creative involvement of citizens and organizations, associations, businesses, on the border between profit and non-profit – will gradually become the subject of increased receptive capacity, especially on the part of private operators. The use of technology platforms, in the context of the smart city, will enable the aggregation of individual initiatives, networks and experiences, in order to facilitate scalability and access to financial and organizational resources. It is clear that, for use for purposes related to the common good, the availability of a great variety and mountain of data will be an enabling factor of decisive importance.

Service innovation

Digital relations. Operational relations between the public and private will advance decisively in coming years. In fact, a very considerable share of P.A. relations with the corporate world will be digitized by 2025. Collaboration between public and private actors will make it possible to provide businesses and citizens with uniform services, overtaking precisely the public-private dichotomy, to model themselves on life events. Among the services organized in such a way, there will be:

  • integrated transportation services over public and private networks
  • services related to self-drivingmobility (embedded cabling of the highway code, as well as insurance monitoring, in car software).

Better services, new services. The fiber cabling phase in Italy, with an availability of high bandwidth connectivity for citizens and businesses will also provide a stimulus for the emergence of a new class of public services that will improve and change people’s lives.  The increase of public services performances will also be enhanced by the use of particularly innovative technologies, including those related to “mixed reality”. This set of innovations will take place starting mainly from areas such as tourism, health and social communication.

* Following are the 10 Managers participating the seminars: Gian Paolo Balboni (Tim), Alessandro Casacchia (Agid), Andrea Casalegno (Top-Ix), Gianni Dominici (Forum PA), Paolo Nuti (Mc Link), Fabio Panunzi (Linkem), Francesco Pirro (Agid), Giovanni Sabadini (Engineering), Roberto Vicentini (Engineering), Ezio Zerbini (Ericsson).

Stefano Palumbo