23 Luglio 2020
Letter from Minister to Corriere della Sera
Lettera del Ministro al Corriere della Sera del 23 luglio

We live in a historical phase of impetuous technological innovation and Italy has to cope with these times. Government’s majority and opposition should work together for the common good

Dear Director,

The debate on the right to Internet access that was started by Professor Romano Prodi and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, leads me to share with your readers my reflections regarding Italy and the European Union.
We live in a historical phase of impetuous technological innovation. For some time now we have witnessed different speeds inside and outside our society. Some international companies run and grow fast, as they are the locomotives of this swirling evolution. Society as a whole, in everyday life, in one way or another, has been able to adjust to these fast-moving and evolving changes. The democratic states to which we owe our freedoms are playing catch-up.
Actually, they are struggling. Governments should not necessarily endorse or support technologies. However, governments should not chase after major tech companies.
It is discouraging seeing that democratic states are unable not only to be the drivers of technological change, like in the past, but also to respond robustly to the present challenges. Governments seem to be unable to think about where the change is heading and provide the apt regulatory framework to address the issues arising from the rapidly changing and increasingly all pervasive technology.
We are not vouching for regulating everything but oftentimes, the combination of lack of principles, ethics, and rules ends up making the technology harmful and detrimental.
Do we realize that in Italy digital savvy is scarce among our bureaucracy and public administration?
Do we perhaps believe that our country is equipped with the right skills to adequately understand the implications of the technology that the country is going to adopt and the big high tech companies will release, time after time.
Do we believe that our country has the capability to value and anticipate the social impact or the international policies implications that any new technology will have in the medium/ long term, or even in the short term?
Unfortunately, our country tends to forgo innovation. It tends to sway between two extremes: uncritically adopting foreign technological solutions and rejecting novelties, on the account of prejudice or misconception rather than on evidence.
As a founding member of the European Union, Italy should be committed to be a leading protagonist in the area of innovation.
The EU financial support demands a qualitative leap forward from us. This is what our country actually needs and not what someone else dictates. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte rightly called this moment “historic” for Europe and Italy.
Ensuring access to the internet for everyone, for example, does not only mean ensuring adequate connectivity (and our country, by all means, needs it), but also an appropriate level of computer literacy for workers and citizens. In any other way, there is the real risk of having a house with electricity but without light bulbs and appliances. In other words, connectivity without a purpose.
As ranking third country in the European Union for number of inhabitants and GDP, we have a duty to secure a leading position in the international competition. But this goal heavily depends on the country’s dynamism in the technological area.
Romano Prodi recently wrote: “The real big consequence of Covid-19 is that the giants of the Internet have become the rulers of the world, with an unprecedented power for political and economic influence”. President Sassoli observed: “We are used to thinking about the Net too much in terms of platforms and algorithms and less in terms of rights”.

Solving these issues requires getting the better of a rearguard vision. In the face of these changes, democratic institutions should win back their weight. Yet, regaining significance requires some changes. For example, the Public Administration should become fully respondent to the needs of the year 2020.
In the decree law “Simplification and digital innovation”, soon to be discussed in the Parliament, we have provided for a norm that requires all public administrations, with rare exceptions, to offer their services also digitally so as to allow citizens to make all their transactions with the public sector through their mobile phones.
But let’s face it: a law or government commitment are not enough. We are all responsible to make it happen. Do we support and nudge the many subjects required to apply it or do we act as to slow down, impede, delay?

Strong commitment from the government’s majority is not sufficient. Lega, Forza Italia and Fratelli d’Italia, who represent many Italian voters, should help to support this effort so that our country can regain a better position to better cope with international competition. I extend this plea to local authorities, entrepreneurs and trade union organizations.
Those in government today must control a complex, layered situation. Those in government in the future will have to manage also the outcomes of the decisions we take now.
If we care about Italy’s present and future, we must look ahead and converge on what is good for the whole Country.
The alternative is squandering what we have. It’s the decline.
We must advance in time, not move backward. And, as much as possible, move forward together.

Paola Pisano

Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitization

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