Inclusive digital innovation

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Digital innovation consists of the adoption of technologies that make the administration more effective and efficient, in the perspective of service delivery to citizens and businesses, and that facilitate transparency and civic participation.

Digital innovation implies and determines a change of model and paradigm, the rethinking of processes and relationships between public administration, citizens and stakeholders. In order to guarantee digital citizenship, it is necessary to adapt technologies and adopt participatory platforms, but even before that, it is necessary to guarantee inclusion by breaking down legal and technological barriers and digital gaps that are not only infrastructural, but also sociological, economic, cultural, generational and gender related.

Digital citizenship starts way back with Article 3 of the Italian Constitution, which declares the right of every citizen to participate “in the political, economic and social organization of the country“. Legislation has subsequently added digital technologies.  The Digital Administration Code (Legislative Decree no. 82 of 2005, as subsequently amended and integrated) defines rights and duties of citizens and actions on the services of administrations, which must become increasingly accessible also thanks to digital technologies.

In addition to the Digital Administration Code, there are the Lisbon Treaty 2009, which declares that every citizen has the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union, and the Declaration of Internet Rights, which provides, among others, the rights to the access, knowledge and education on the net, to the net neutrality, to the protection of personal data, to the informational self-determination, to the inviolability of computer systems and devices, to the identity and the oblivion. These are the main normative bases that guarantee effective interventions for a real transition from simple transparency to real digital citizenship.

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI 2021) of the European Union, while evaluating the level of completeness of online services and digital public services for businesses in Italy with a score above the European average, shows that our country remains well below the EU average as a percentage of Italian online users who use e-government services (36% vs 64% EU). Unfortunately, still 16.3% of the country’s population has never used the internet (Source: “We are social“), while the average for Western Europe is 14% and 5% for Northern Europe.

Also, in the area of digital skills, unfortunately, the data see Italy in the last positions in Europe: this is reflected in the low use of online services and active participation in decision-making processes.

Digital inclusion is a challenge to inequalities and allows to guarantee to the citizen all the tools (digital skills and technologies) necessary to participate in society, communicate, work and use the digital services of the Public Administration. To this purpose, the Open Government Partnership promotes the development of public platforms for service delivery, participation, increase of digital citizenship and sharing of ideas, projects and information.

The Declaration of Internet Rights is based on the “full acknowledgement of freedom, equality, dignity and diversity of each person”. The guarantee of these rights is a necessary condition to ensure the democratic functioning of institutions and to avoid the predominance of public and private authorities that can bring to a society of surveillance, monitoring and social selection. Internet is a space of growing importance for the self-organization of people and groups and it is an essential tool to promote individual and collective participation to democratic processes and substantial equality.

An inclusive and open government encourages members of the community to participate to the governance and decision-making process. This entails building and maintaining strong relationships with the member of the community, the communication and information-sharing regularly and also giving voice to citizens that not always have been listened.

The key words on which we should intervene are: digital competences, transparency, listening, participation, innovation of technologies, processes, inclusion, usability, accessibility.

As planned in the project “Competenze digitali per la PA“ by the Public Administration Department, it is necessary to consolidate digital competences for public servants in order to boost propensity to change and to innovate in public administration.

Inclusion assumes and generates transparency and participation.

The process innovation has the aim to review procedures, norms and regulations to guarantee simplification of processes also through the adoption of more adequate technologies up-to-date.

Public administration has to guarantee to everyone the possibility to use digital services, for this reason, from the stage of designing, it has to consider accessibility of platforms where services, contents and documents, activities of interaction between the administration and citizens are provided.

We talk about accessibility for informatic applications regardless of the device used (PC, smartphone, tablet, digital TV, Totem, etc.). Law n.4 of 2004 (Provisions to favour and simplify access to users and, in particular, to users with disabilities to informatic tools) and the Legislative Decree n.106 of 2018 (Implementation od Directive UE 2016/2102 related to the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public entities) are the normative baselines to whom “Guidelines on the informatic tools accessibility” by the Italian Agency for Digital (AgID) refers, supporting public administrations by defining technical requirements to guarantee accessibility.

As written by the AgID,the usability measures the degree of ease and satisfaction with whom users interact through the website or app dashboard; it will end up being the more usable, the more the baseline analysis of the design are closer to the expectations of the user that will interact with the system”. The issue is “citizen at the heart” even in the design of services in order to guarantee usability, accessibility and easy consumption of the service to every type of user.

 

Digital inclusive innovation in National Action Plans for open government

In the 4th National Action Plan 2019-2021 (4NAP), it is declared that “a scarce awareness of the rights of digital citizenship adds up to the scarce diffusion of digital competences”.

In addition, “the technologic evolution and the subsequent request of digital services by the citizen and the firms brings the necessity of promoting tools and initiatives for the diffusion of digital citizenship. In this sense, it is important to activate tools and initiative to spread awareness among citizens with respect to the right of digital citizenship and of value added provided by digital services, in particular:

  • Supporting the implementation of digital citizenship protecting his right/duty: right of the digital citizen to use the services; duty of the citizen to comply with the procedures required by e-Government to exercise the right.
  • Enabling the civil society to understand and know projects of digital transformation of the administrations involving young people in digital projects and promoting a platform dedicated to them”.

The 4NAP shows different commitments and activities to guarantee the digital citizenship and digital competences: some Italian administration have arranged interventions to ensure a widespread digital citizenship by offering training but also revising regulations, processes and tools in use. Consultations, participative processes, re-designing of websites and online services and platforms to allows for the participation and interaction between PA and citizens are some of the implemented interventions: however, still too few local public administrations are engaged directly and actively.

In general, it is necessary to direct an extensive activity of awareness towards political decision-makers and administrative officers in order to enhance the consciousness and the interventions aimed at ensuring digital citizenship in the whole country.

These objectives should include timing and measurability to guarantee another essential principle of OGP: the accountability.

All these considerations have been incorporated during the process of co-creation of the 5th National Action Plan 2022-2023, which has included an action dedicated to inclusive digital innovation with the aim of planning projects related to the digital support and facilitation, moderating at the same time the technologic and socio-economic-cultural gaps.