29 Agosto 2020
Letter from the Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitalization to the Director of La Repubblica
Letter from the Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitalization to the Director of La Repubblica

Paola Pisano explains her proposal to improve digital skills in the Primary and Lower Secondary Education, and University

Dear Director,

with the Covid-19 pandemic, in Italy, the lives of over 35 thousand people were lost. The country is still going through a phase in which many people are suffering the direct and indirect consequences of the epidemic.
We have a duty to ensure that we will transcend this painful moment in our history to land into times of a different kind. Thus, we should raise awareness of the need for an extensive joint effort to transform these trying moments for our society into the start of changes that could mend our weaknesses.

Italy’s ability to face international competition must be strengthened; whatever could be our opinion on the matter. Competition is becoming more intense. It requires us to take new paths.
The DESI 2020, which measures the digitalization of economies and societies in the European Union, shows that only 22% of Italians between 16 and 74 have above basic digital skills. Among the graduates, those who have a degree in information and communication technologies (ICT) is only 1%. According to the “Digital Skills Observatory”, last year, there was a shortage of more than 15,000 ICT graduates.

With the Recovery Fund, the EU is making an enormous effort to supporting Italy. Thanks to the negotiations of our Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, we will receive 209 billion euros, the 28% of the entire resources that the EU is making available to restore the economic damages caused by the Coronavirus. By obtaining loans, albeit, at advantageous rates, we increase our already heavy public debt. So we must act now to lighten a burden that will end up on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren. We must equip ourselves to produce more and better.

This calls us to invest in the younger generations, to free the blocked channels through which their talents struggle to be put to good use in our country, as they truly deserve. My portfolio of competencies requires, among other things, to take actions “in conjunction with the relevant Ministries, to ensure the development and dissemination of the skills for adequate use of digital technologies in the schools and university”.
I, therefore, suggested to Lucia Azzolina, the Minister of Education, to add a new subject matter in all schools’ curriculum. We are pondering together this possibility; I do thank her for her openness.
I would leave it to the experts and officials to choose whether the course should be called “science of technological innovation” or with other most suitable names, depending on the school cycle. What matters is that this subject would allow our children to acquire the digital skills that are useful both for work and in everyday life. For children and adolescents, the course would also represent an opportunity to understand the risks and learn to respect the dignity of others on the web.

I consider this an initiative having social, not just economic, value. It would require hiring new teachers. It would offer opportunities for professional upgrading for our valuable teachers. Students could acquire different expertise: from the history of innovation to the Internet law, from cybersecurity to evaluating credible sources and reliable information online, from the use of big data and machine learning to the new technologies suitable for sustainable development. For tomorrow’s professionals, these skills will not be just whimsical. They may be basic requirements to get jobs that come with better professional performance, better salary, and more personal gratification.

I hope to reach a full consensus not only within the government majority but also with the opposition. We are all interested in strengthening the ‘Italian system’.

Today, frontier innovations should be taught in school. The third-millennium citizens should be ‘literate’ in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of things, connectivity, 5G, new generations of microchips. For universities, with Gaetano Manfredi, the Minister of the University, we are imagining to dedicate a number of hours of any course to understand how digital technology can be applied to each specific subject.

Besides its mission, the school would become an ecosystem for sprouting innovation. The whole society and the competitiveness of Italian companies would benefit from it. Improving citizens’ technological skills is essential for Italy’s well-being in the years to come. Let’s work on this together. Now.

Paola Pisano
Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitization

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