Italy’s Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition has pledged to simplify red tape by speeding up the rollout of a national digital platform for citizens, as part of a 248 billion dollar stimulus package. euros intended to revive the third largest economy in the euro zone.
Vittorio Colao, former managing director of Vodafone, said the online portal will allow Italians to do everything from paying taxes to booking vaccines, and simplifying overlapping regional and national competencies.
It will act as a catalyst for the overhaul of the pandemic-stricken economy led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, he added.
“If I had to say why Italy is late today, it is because of the legal and administrative complexity, which we are determined to simplify as a government,” he told the Financial Times.
He added: “Now is the time to do it. This has not happened in the past because, probably, the urgency was not felt, or probably the resistance was strong. The sad story of Covid is that it not only took lives, but hit the economy in several important ways. Now the sense of urgency and need is higher. “
Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank, was tasked by the Italian president earlier this year with forming a government of national unity after the collapse of his last coalition. Colao was Managing Director of British telecommunications group Vodafone between 2008 and 2018 and, until becoming a minister, lived in London. A political novice, he is one of the many business experts appointed by Draghi.
He said he was determined to expand the use of the administration’s existing online portal to the entire population before transforming it into “a notification platform that includes everything from fines to taxes , court orders and vaccinations. ”
“It sounds like science fiction, but it isn’t. We already have 20 million people on this platform today, ”he said.
About a third of Italians have subscribed to the existing platform, called Spid. Colao said that in the first quarter of this year, the digital service processed 120 million transactions, compared to 143 million for all of 2020.
Colao said increasing Italians’ digital interaction with the state through the website would make it easier for the government to invest in digital education and skills.
The use of online services in Italy is among the lowest in the EU. Only 38% of Italians aged 16 to 74 bought goods and services online in 2019, the third lowest share in the EU – tied with Bulgaria and Romania, according to Eurostat.
Half of Italians aged 16 to 74 used a laptop or handheld device to access the internet outside of work or home in 2019, compared to 73% of all Europeans on average.
The size of the EU-backed investment package is “dazzling,” Colao said, “but the real heart of our plan is reforms and investing in people. Italy now wants to invest in its own people and talent, and improve opportunities for those who are here ”.
He added, “You have to invest in the whole treadmill, from kindergarten to doctoral research. This country has been very erratic in the past and this is not an area where you can be erratic. We must be systematic because the production cycle of intellectual innovation is 15 to 30 years. “
Colao said these efforts will help the country create the conditions to stop the outflow of talent abroad and attract foreign investors.
“The two things foreign investors in Italy always say are: we can’t find the right people and the system is horrible,” he said. “Am I one hundred percent convinced that we will achieve all of this?” Well, we have to be ambitious. Maybe we will miss some parts, but if we reach 90% it would put Italy in the lead.